ST Body interviews: Lisa M. Bradley, “Teratoma Lullaby”

Originally posted by rose_lemberg at ST Body interviews: Lisa M. Bradley, “Teratoma Lullaby”

Originally published at Stone Telling blog. You can comment here or there.

Our interviewee today is Lisa M. Bradley, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Teratoma Lullaby“. Lisa’s nonfiction essay “Listening to the Lost, Speaking for the Dead: Speculative Elements in the Poetry of Gabriela Mistral” has appeared in the very first issue of Stone Telling, followed by “Litanies in the Dark: The Poetry of Alfonsina Storni” in the second issue. Lisa also had two other pieces of poetry published by us, Embedded (issue 9) and another poem of epic length, “we come together we fall apart” (ST7: the Queer Issue), which was nominated for the Rhysling award and was reprinted in Here, We Cross.

Lisa M. Bradley

Lisa M. Bradley resides in Iowa with her spouse, child, and two cats. She has poetry forthcoming in Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, and In Other Words. The “someone bewitched…more bear than man” in “Teratoma Lullaby” is named Art. Art’s story, “The Pearl in the Oyster and The Oyster Under Glass,” can be found in the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press.

I knew someone bewitched
enchanted, shifted—
more bear than man.
When I told him about my twin
he stroked his paw down my back
so so gently
(lest his invisible claws rip my skin)
and asked if my twin might not be
a sister.

- from Teratoma Lullaby

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem? A friend of mine was participating in Haiku Mondays, and one week her prompt was “teratoma.” I’ve been fascinated with the phenomenon of teratomas since I read Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and the topic lent itself to some stylistic experiments I wanted to try, so I started writing  “Teratoma Lullaby.” I’ve felt at war with my body since childhood, and the invisible illnesses I’ve developed over time have amplified my frustrations. The poem began as an intellectual exercise but quickly morphed into a weird rebus for that sense of not cohering within my self, and the perhaps concomitant desire to excise certain memories and emotions.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time? I come to speculative poetry from a horror background, so yes. Horror is obsessed with the Body, which can be a battleground for competing forces (as in my poem “The Haunted Girl”) or a model of systemic failures (as in “In Defiance of Sleek-Armed Androids”), just to name two modes of body horror. In my work, the Body’s state reflects the Mind’s (“we come together we fall apart”). My characters often inventory the Body out of their desire to impose order (“The Skin-Walker’s Wife” and my Exile novels.)

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem? My grandmother sang the song in “Teratoma Lullaby” to my little sister, to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” The metaphasis “Buenos nachos” in place of “buenas noches” is a family joke, though I used it to different effect in the poem.

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about? I had an(other) epic poem appear in Strange Horizons recently: Una Canción de Keys. (I write short poems, too, I really do.) I am also writing a series of blog posts, “Writing Latin@ Characters Well,” that I hope to continue, time and RSI permitting.

ST: Thank you very much, Lisa!


If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.


Follow-up to the other stuff

I want to note, in public, that the only two of Scalzi's fans to get in touch with me directly were really nice, and wrote to say they appreciated my writing.

I want to acknowledge their kindness in saying so, but ALSO, and I think equally importantly, I want to acknowledge the people who did not contact me directly. I really do appreciate the fact that people who were angry with what I had to say kept it off my space, given that I haven't had the spoons to deal with stuff.

(I am still leaving comments off, though, because I've got to go deal with medical foo.)
angry, racism

A thought on playing at the lowest possible difficulty level, and telling other people what's easy

Sorry for lack of links to general context, but I think anyone who reads this will know what I'm talking about.

I'd like to reference two blog posts.

  1. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
    Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
    John Scalzi, Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

  2. I’ve seen rumblings of people suggesting they’ll put everyone on the Correia/Day slate below “no award” no matter what, but if you’re doing that, you’re making these fellows’ alleged point for them. Again: Why do that? It’s nearly as easy to read a work (or at least, read as far as can) and decide it’s just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!
    John Scalzi, No, the Hugo Nominations Were not Rigged

Okay now let's imagine we're all playing a massive roleplaying game called The Real World. There's an area of this game, let's call it the "Speculative Fiction community", that has interesting enough storylines and characters that players keep coming back to it, but it also has a number of nasty monsters. Let's call them... trolls.

Now: here is a secret* about the trolls in this region.  They are ridiculously nerfed on the easy setting. When you're playing the game on hard, or gods forbid on multiple-marginalizations, these trolls do a ton of extra damage, and have endless adds, and an "uncomprehending/dismissive" buff that lets them ignore most anything coming their way.

None of this matters on easy mode, mind. They're annoying, but like most things in the game, pretty easy to take on. You don't have to worry much about strategy or conserving resources when you're on easy mode! You just need to run in and wave your sword around! But those of us playing the game on harder settings, we've figured out strategies, and we've figured out where not to go. We know the best approach is to avoid these monsters entirely, and avoid even indirect contact. We know that any item connected to them could be cursed on hard mode, and do further damage. We've figured this out from painful experience. So, when a couple trolls manage to infiltrate a high-status area of the region, and people comment that they're going to avoid them...

...and in comes someone who is playing the game on the easiest fucking mode there is, right, who has set himself up as so sympathetic to people playing on hard. And he uses this platform to tell us that we're playing the game wrong, we mustn't protect ourselves because it's not sportsmanlike.

This person playing on easy, he tells us that this is about "fair play. Game on." Which is accepting the trolls' framing of the situation, that because they exist we must either fight them or let them win, we can't avoid them and do more worthwhile things with our time. We must risk major damage that past experience tells us they will do, or it's not "fair". To the trolls. And to the game. Never mind what's fair for us.

So. Having decided to play their game, and take them on - and without even acknowledging that they are nerfed on his level of difficulty - this person is telling us we have to, too, and that "It's nearly as easy to fight a troll and decide it's just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!"

...Yeah, that's when we point out, Mr. Scalzi, that by your own logic you are fucking up.


* Secret defined here as: people who play the game on hard have been talking about it for ages, but people who play on easy don't bother reading the forums dedicated to hard modes, so they continue to have no clue and won't actually work to get the game balance improved, they'll just pontificate at us.

EDIT: Second quote source/link fixed, apologies for misattributing to the wrong Scalzi post.

(Comments are closed on this post because I do play on hard mode.)


On the pitfalls of “merit”

Originally posted by rose_lemberg at On the pitfalls of “merit”

As I see it, there is currently a split in the fandom. I tentatively think of it as a split between Golden Age fans and Diversity Age fans. This is not about age, as I’ve written before, but about storylines: who gets to write stories, who gets to be a protagonist of stories, who gets to consume stories and express their opinions as authoritative. There is a certain correlation between demographic variables, and the Golden Age vs Diversity Age split in fandom, but it is far from absolute, and this imperfect mapping often creates dissonance in the way we speak about fandom, the works within it, and personalities who generate and consume these works.

It is not surprising that there is a demographic correlation wrt these fandoms, as many people like to see protagonists who are like themselves. It is also no big secret that Golden Age works often tend to other, exclude, and dismiss Diversity Age Fans. Nevertheless, there is an overlap between these fandoms. Perhaps instead of talking about a binary split, we can talk about a continuum between these two axes; a continuum of values and interests that maps loosely but not precisely onto demographics. Some people can hold positions that overlap with both axes. A white, cisgendered, heterosexual man can certainly be a Diversity Age fan.

However, the position of a white, cisgendered, heterosexual man is a demographic position of privilege and power both in fandom and without it. Within the Golden Age umbrella, this demographic has been the one primarily fronted through narratives, power structures, promotion through mainstream presses, and other venues of power. This demographic position of power is not automatically dismantled or disappears within Diversity Age fandom – on the contrary, we see a flow of social capital from fans, in form of sales, praise, and support, towards such powerful fans who side with Diversity Age positions.

Such powerful fans are, not surprisingly, in a position to powerfully promote Diversity Age voices, which are, in many cases, still building their influence and earning social power and fanbase. While speaking out, up and coming diverse writers and fans often become targets of ridicule and scorn due to their demographic and social positioning – when they get any attention at all. In that way, white, cisgendered, heterosexual men (and often women, though there is a notable social and power difference) who are power brokers in our communities can – and get- to do a lot of good for Diversity Age fandom.

However, the temptation is strong to use this power not just to do ally work, but to self-build through the struggle of marginalized Diversity Age writers and fans – through campaining for Diversity positions which incurs increased social capital, as well as increased financial capital. Few are the voices that rise to openly criticize such powerful fans if their work happens to be less than clueful, because they are in power positions to grant and withdraw favors, as well as grant and withdraw considerable social capital in our communities. It is exactly the risk that I am taking here.

Now I will speak about conciliatory voices. Some of the people on Hugo ballot this year – regardless of how they got there – spoke openly and vociferously against personhood and agency of Diversity Age authors and fans, to an extent that many Diversity Age authors and fans felt and continue to feel threatened emotionally and at times physically. At the same time, certain conciliatory voices of prominent fandom people have been raised to ask fandom to judge Hugo-nominated works on their literary merit.

The suggestion that we read solely for “merit” fronts the idea of “objectivity,” i.e. that a view which considers a given work in a vacuum, without social context in whcih the work has been created and disseminated, is somehow desirable and superior to other ways of reading. Fronting “objectivity” has a long and problematic history within academia and beyond. The fallacy is that what gets to be objective gets to be again defined by power brokers, thus effectively silencing and disenfranchising the marginalized.

This suggestion also carries within it a value judgment: “objectivity good, anger bad” – which slides yet again into the old and tired tone argument.

It is my opinion that such conciliatory voices from prominent personae who are 1) power brokers in our communities and 2) considerably less marginalized than the diverse fans and authors they are championing – are not helping the cause of marginalized and othered Diversity Age authors and fans. In these statements there is often an embedded tone argument, an entreaty to Diversity Age fans to play nice with people who explicitly or implicitly dehumanize and more yet, threaten violence against them. Such conciliatory language from power brokers suggests story lines for the whole community to align with – storylines whose buzzwords are “reason,” “respectability,” and “merit.”

But these “voices of reason” may not speak fully for Diversity Age fans, because the very notion of such reason and its objectivity is a Western ideal (and by extent white, male, and historically entrenched ideal within the power structures of the West) which we are thereby encouraged to adopt. The ideal of objective merit might seem desirable at first glance, because we are socialized to desire it. In fact, the adoption of this ideal is dangerous: it suppresses non-Western, non-cisgendered-male modes of thinking and communicating, and imposes a mainstream, power paradigm upon the marginalized – it often has, in short, a silencing effect.

Also, conciliatory statements often have the effect of diverting the attention yet again (along with the accompanying social praise and support) from the marginalized voices to the power brokers, thus increasing the social capital of those who already have it, while marginalized voices go unpromoted and unsupported – unsupported often in context of vicious attacks from those who deny Diversity Age fans their personhood.

This is not about Golden Age vs Diversity Age split, but about lending one’s ear to white supremacists and their allies. For many of us, who are well-versed in surviving violence of various kinds, knowing the context is crucial for survival. This is why we cannot divorce the work from its author, or from the social context within which these authors operate. A context in which a given author is actively dangerous – emotionally, physically – is crucial.

It is within this context that many of us will judge such works, and many of us may feel angry, uncomfortable, disenfranchised, dismissed, and silenced when the paradigm of “merit” is suggested by power brokers – even when they are powerful allies in other contexts.

Special thanks to Saira Ali, Amal El-Mohtar, SL Huang, and Alex Dally MacFarlane for their critical reading, suggestions, and support.

I am closing comments because I have no spoons for trolls in this space. Please feel free to discuss this in your own spaces. If you’d like a discussion with me specifically, please find me through @roselemberg on twitter. I will do my best to engage, though I will not be engaging with trolls.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.


ST Body Interviews: Sofia Samatar, “Long-Ear”

Originally posted by rose_lemberg at ST Body Interviews: Sofia Samatar, “Long-Ear”

Originally published at Stone Telling blog. You can comment here or there.

Our second interview features Sofia Samatar, who contributed to the Body issue with her poem “Long-Ear.” This is Sofia’s fourth appearance in the magazine; her first Stone Telling poem was “The Sand Diviner” in the Mythic Issue (ST5,) which also happened to be Sofia’s first publication. We are very proud to have been the first to publish her work! Sofia’s second ST poem is “Girl Hours” in the Catalyst issue (ST6), and her “Snowbound in Hamadan” appeared in ST8.


Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013). Her stories and poems have appeared in a number of places, including Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Eleven Eleven, and Goblin Fruit. She edits nonfiction and poetry for Interfictions Online. You can find her on Twitter, and blogging at

First she was a girl.

Then she was a wife.

Then she was a mother (of a daughter).

Then she was a mother (of another daughter).

Then she was a mother (of a third daughter).

Then she was a cannibal.

Sofia Samatar, “Long-Ear

ST:  What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

SS: This poem is inspired by a well-known Somali story about Dhegdheer, a female ogre, whose name means “Long-Ear.” It came together after Rose and Shweta asked me if I’d contribute to Stone Telling’s “Body” issue. I just started thinking about that ear, really. That long ear. And the fact that in the version of the story I know, Dhegdheer has only daughters. So there were all these bits and pieces to do with the body: a woman giving birth to one daughter after another, the long ear, transformation, cannibalism. It started to seem like a way to talk about fertility in patriarchal systems–how fertility must contribute, produce male children, in order to be seen as legitimate. If it doesn’t contribute, it becomes its own opposite: cannibalism. In the end I think the poem is about how we interpret bodies.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

SS: You know, I wouldn’t necessarily have said this before being asked this question, but I think quite a few of my works deal with the body! Contaminated, outcast and dying bodies in A Stranger in Olondria. The female body as a machine in my Stone Telling 6 poem, “Girl Hours.” Lost bodies, and their implications for history, in “Burnt Lyric,” which appeared in Goblin Fruit. And I have a story forthcoming in Lightspeed, “How to Get Back to the Forest,” which is all about the body and state control.

ST: What else would you like to tell our readers about your poem?

SS: I’d like to tell them that microchimerism is real!

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

SS: Well, there is that story forthcoming in Lightspeed, which I’m excited about. I’m working on a book of prose poems with images by my brother, Del Samatar, called Monster Portraits–it’s about hyphenated identities and race and citizenship. And bodies! And then, of course, there’s the sequel to A Stranger in Olondria. That’s in the works. I think it’s almost finished. I keep telling myself: “Any day now!”

ST: Thank you very much, Sofia!


If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.


ST Body interviews: Ada Hoffmann, “Turning to Stone”

Originally posted by rose_lemberg at ST Body interviews: Ada Hoffmann, “Turning to Stone”

Originally published at Stone Telling blog. You can comment here or there.

Today we begin  posting our interviews with Stone Telling 10: Body poets. We asked our poets a few questions, and will be publishing the responses we received over the next few weeks. Our first featured poet is Ada Hoffmann, who contributed to the Body issue with “Turning to Stone.” This is Ada’s first appearance in the magazine.

Ada Hoffmann is an autistic graduate student from Canada. Her poetry has appeared in venues such as Strange Horizons and Goblin Fruit. You can find her online at or on Twitter at @xasymptote.

I’m slowing down, or else the city’s
speeding up around me. Paint-bright people
whirl along the many-cornered streets.
Your walk, my friends, becomes a fire-dance.

Ada Hoffmann, ”Turning to Stone.”

ST: What inspired this particular poem? What would you like readers to know about your context, and how it relates to your poem?

This poem was inspired by a specific real-life event. I had an ugly overload/meltdown on a family trip in 2012, and something in the depths of my meltdown brain decided to make a poem out of it. Once I was feeling a little better, I started free-associating about imagery, metrical concerns, characters my meltdown brain identified with, and other such things, and the poem took shape. It went through a larger series of drafts than most of my poems – partly because the first draft made no sense, but also because there were a number of aspects of the poem that I tried to distance myself from at first. I had to be hit over the head by certain beta readers in order to tell the full truth. In particular, the last verse in parentheses did not appear in anything like its current form until the final revision (though the last three words of the poem were there from the beginning).

I am autistic, and situations like the one described in the poem, with many sensory things going on at once, are a challenge for me. I would like to caution readers that the challenge doesn’t always take the shape that it does in this poem. Overload can look like a lot of different things.

ST: Is the Body a central theme in your work? If so, what other works of yours deal with it? If not, what called you to it this time?

To be honest, I’m usually so deep in my own head that I forget about the body until it gets dirty or achy or hungry. I wouldn’t have even thought of submitting to a “Body”-themed issue of a magazine if ST’s guidelines hadn’t explicitly included neuroatypicality as one of the “Body”-related themes it was looking for. I’m very interested in writing about the experience of neuroatypicality, and there are physical and sensory aspects to this experience as well as more cerebral ones. “Turning to Stone” uses metaphor to turn the sensory aspect of a meltdown into a physical one, so it technically counts.

If you’re looking for more from me on this theme, my story “You Have to Follow the Rules” in Strange Horizons, and my poem “The Changeling’s Escape” in Ideomancer, are works from 2013 which are both written from the point of view of a neuroatypical child. Autistic characters show up more subtly or peripherally in a few of my earlier stories, including “Moon Laws, Dream Laws” and “The Chartreuse Monster“. I hope to be able to do more with this theme in the future, especially more stories/poems from the point of view of autistic adults. (I have an upcoming novelette in that vein which I’m very excited about. It also has dinosaurs!)

ST: Do you have any upcoming projects you might like to talk about?

AH: As 2014 gets underway, I’m finding myself embroiled in three different collaborative projects with three different people! I’ve always thought of myself as a loner, but I am actually very dependent on others for feedback and validation, and I want to share the things I am excited about. Being able to share the full creative workspace with someone I trust (through trust is crucial) is a wonderful gift. It may be a while until any of these projects result in anything publically available, and I don’t want to talk about them in detail until then, but this is what I’m most excited about right now.

ST: Thank you very much, Ada!


If you enjoyed this poem and the interview, please consider letting the poet know! Also, we now have a Patreon page, and would appreciate your support.


Jenn Appreciation Post!

You know, what with all the spoonfail, I don't think we said this out loud this time round - without heroic work from dormouse_in_tea, the issue of Stone Telling would not be digitized and up at all. So here's to all of Jenn's work - crucial, painstaking, and all the more frustrating because Rose and I have been off schedule.

So Jenn -


Stone Telling 10 is here!


Originally posted by rose_lemberg at Stone Telling 10 is here!
Well, that took about forever, but we hope it was worth the wait.

It's a double issue with 23 poems, and they are all incredible.

Let us know how we did, please.

We are now reading for ST11, so if we've never published you before, please send us your work. If we have published you before, please nudge other poets our way!

Stone Telling 11 is now open to submissions!

Originally posted by rose_lemberg at Stone Telling 11 is now open to submissions!
As of today, Stone Telling is open to submissions! We are looking for work by poets we have not published before.

From the guidelines:

We are especially interested in diversity of voice and theme. While we are open to all speculative poetry, we love to see work that is multi-cultural and boundary-crossing, work that deals with othering and Others, work that considers race, gender, sexuality, identity, and disability issues in nontrivial and evocative ways. We’d love to see multilingual poetry, though that can sometimes be tricky. Try us!
There are no style limitations, but rhymed poetry will be a hard sell. Please try us with visual poetry, prose poetry, and other genre-bending forms. We will consider experimental poetry, but please remember that not all experimental poems are easy to represent in an e-zine format.

We pay 5$ per poem, and 20$ per poem of epic length (over 120 lines). Please check out our full guidelines!

Looking forward to reading your submissions :)