Dear Nature: There is a Crucial Difference Between Being Contentious and Being a Misogynistic Asshole

Update: Bonus fun! “Womanspace” author Ed Rybicki has appeared in the comments, trying to sockpuppet himself some support under the handle “Disappointed.” Be sure to take this opportunity to speak your mind directly to the responsible party. Enjoy, everyone!

You may wonder what I’m doing here with a can of kerosene in one hand and a match in the other. Why, I’m about to burn a bridge.

Writers are typically advised against doing so, as the person you’re pissed at today may have been the person who’d publish you tomorrow. And yes, it would have been nice to be published alongside our own Stephanie Zvan someday, as I’d figured any publication wise enough to choose one of her stories might prove an attractive market for my own fiction, should I be fortunate enough to make the cut. However, there’s the matter of the other company I’d be keeping. I refer, of course, to the wretchedly sexist story “Womanspace” that appeared in your formerly-august pages in September. No, I won’t link to it. Interested readers will have no trouble finding it, by way of Dr. Anne Jefferson’s masterful takedown of it.

I gave the story a glance. It’s one of those stories in which a writer masturbates to the tune of exhausted stereotypes, and believes the resulting mass is original simply because it emerged from them, and they haven’t got out much. It contains the kind of overdone sexist humor that tickles the underdeveloped funnybones of men who are too inept to figure out teh wimminz. I understand the author’s wife giggled. I’m certain she did. If she hadn’t learned to laugh at her husband by now, she’d be a divorcee. A laughing spouse, however, is no guarantee of quality, a fact which writers who attempt to publish in professional fiction magazines soon learn to their sorrow.

Nature, of course, is not a professional fiction magazine, but only does a bit of fiction on the side, and so it is, perhaps, understandable that selling points such as, “My wife laughed, so it must be funny and not sexist!” could sway the minds of the editorial staff. Fiction is not your specialty, and I’m certain this explains why you ended up publishing a story based on ideas that weren’t even original in the 1950s and which an editor at a top fiction magazine would have considered worthy of pissing on only if the paper was absorbent, the restrooms out of order, and the only plant in the room a cactus. Usually, such stories earn a rapid rejection slip of the mass-produced variety. The editor (or, more likely, the editor’s slush pile reader, who exists to ensure such D-grade doggerel never sullies the editor’s eyes) would not even have bothered with a personal note scribbled on said rejection slip advising the writer to try harder in the future. They’d much prefer the writer never try again.

You may not have a slush pile reader, or pre-printed rejection slips with little checkboxes that include such categories as “Not original,” “Not science fiction,” “Not funny,” and “If you ever send anything to us ever again, we will send staff to egg your house and steal your dog.” I suggest you acquire both if you plan to stay in the fiction business.

Now, you may have heard Neil Gaiman say, “Being contentious is what you should be doing. You should be shaking people up” when he was speaking at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2001. These wise words may have stayed with you, leading to this unfortunate incident in which you read a story, found it contentious, discovered yourself shaken, and mistakenly believed this meant it was Art. I know you were aware you were igniting a shitstorm, because one of your editors, Henry Gee, commented on the lack thereof. (Note to Henry: shitstorms take time to build when no one reads the fiction section you edit. Sorry.) So perhaps you all thought this was very clever and necessary, because this is what Art is all about: shaking people up.

You have overlooked the fact that there is a major difference between igniting a necessary shitstorm and an unnecessary one. There is a difference between being contentious for good reason and being contentious because you want attention, any attention, even negative attention, like a spoiled child feeling ignored by Mummy.

Allow me to lead by example: there are some posts I write which I know will rile people. I post them because I believe that calling out religion or other silly beliefs is the right and necessary thing to do. You will not, anywhere in these pages, find me posting something noxious for the sake of driving traffic. I could, for instance, post a bit of misogynist doggerel while calling it humorous, and I’m certain that the resultant outrage would enhance my page views considerably. In the short run, that is.

If you did, in fact, know that you were posting a bit of sexist idiocy and did it merely because you wanted to drive some traffic, congratulations. It has worked – in the short run. In the long run, you risk people believing that this one piece reflects your true views on women. I would like to believe that’s not the case, but considering Henry Gee’s history in this regard, I think it’s safe to say at least one editor among you is likely harboring some seriously pathological thoughts toward women. It is time for you to reconsider this editor’s relationship with your company. I’m afraid if you don’t, well over 50% of your readers shall be reconsidering their relationship with you.

Additionally, it behooves you to find someone less inept at handling public relations fiascoes. I refer, of course, to the fact that some buffoon(s) shut down comments on the piece of D-list doggerel in question, and managed to delete the Facebook posts criticizing it. I’m sure both actions were accidental. Just as I am sure you will be thrilled to purchase my oceanfront condo in Yuma, Arizona. (Perhaps you would also be interested in a bridge to replace the one I’ve just burnt. If so, I have a true Brooklyn original at a screaming-hot price.)

I hope this discussion has proved helpful to you in your future endeavors with Futures. I myself shall not be reading it again until Henry Gee’s departure at the earliest, but perhaps one or two other readers remain who enjoy fiction with that retro 1950s-sexism feel. If you have no intention of removing “Womanspace” from your list of publications, plan to retain Henry Gee, and wish to ignite further shitstorms with added misogyny, I’d suggest you advertise on ERV. That seems to be where all the kool he-man woman haters hang out these days. You’ll find plenty of women there who, for reasons mystifying to the well-adjusted, love to hate teh wimminz too. Deplorable company all round; I’m sure you’ll fit right in. That is certainly one possible future for Futures.

If, however, you wish to remove this blot on Nature’s good name, then this is my advice: get rid of that shit-stain of a story, boot Henry Gee out, and apologize immediately. Then learn more about the art of discerning between fiction and items that should be instantly binned. I am certain you will find the links curated by The Contemplative Mammoth and Science Sushi, along with the #womanspace hashtag on Twitter, helpful in this regard. Additionally, Strange Horizons maintains a list of stories too often seen to usually be worthy of consideration. As you found “Womanspace” to be new and interesting, I suspect you should refer to the above resources in order to avoid publishing pieces in the future that lack originality or, indeed, any artistic merit whatsoever.


Dana Hunter

Dear Nature: There is a Crucial Difference Between Being Contentious and Being a Misogynistic Asshole

148 thoughts on “Dear Nature: There is a Crucial Difference Between Being Contentious and Being a Misogynistic Asshole

  1. 2

    Well, great. Now respected publications are becoming IRL trolls.

    “Yeah, we knew it would piss people off, but we decided to pubish it anyway, because women? Fvck ’em.”

    I’m really tempted to re-gender that article and see if it makes it less trite. Probably not, terrible writing is terrible.

  2. Kim

    What if Nature thought that it was a necessary and important thing, to remind the world that men should be incompetent shoppers with brilliant ideas and women exist for domestic purposes?

    That thought doesn’t comfort me.

  3. F

    Oh, headdesk! How depressing. Come on, Nature.

    Well said. Now I have a bit of further reading to do, especially at Highly Allochthonous.

    Totally OT, your opening reminded me of a couple of old tunes. Kerosene and Burn No Bridges.

  4. 6

    I read the piece in question and came away with one thought: “So that explains why the purse operates like a Bag of Holding…”

    Other than that amusing thought, I agree with the OP.

  5. 8

    Amazing: someone writes something whimsical, which pokes fun at middle-aged men, and suddenly it becomes about stereotyping women? Really?? You don’t think that possibly, just possibly, the author was attempting satire?
    Ah, well – turns out I like the other two stories held up as being “problematic”, over on Contemplative Mammoth. That HAS to label me, too.

  6. 9

    “Disappointed’ (now there’s an ironic handle):

    When lots of people express their hurt and their feelings of marginalisation regarding a piece that you claim to be ‘whimsical’, I would submit it’s not their sense of humour that’s the problem.

  7. 10

    Folks, “Disappointed” is Ed Rybicki his own self, attempting to play the sockpuppet.

    We out sockpuppets round these parts, Ed.

    What does it say about you that you’re not willing to own your own story, but instead must pose as someone else to praise it, eh?

  8. 14

    You chaps do have fun don’t you…carry on. Enjoy. And Dana: you saw praise? Not in my post. Really, not. Sockpuppet? With my picture on it? Seriously? ‘ll leave you all to play, then. Whimsically or otherwise.

  9. 16

    Satire is supposed to poke fun at the powerful, not reinforce oppressive stereotypes about the already downtrodden.

    You’re a sexist ass, and apparently you feel no shame about that. You’re a symptom of a major problem in our society.

  10. 18

    Eddie: More fun than reading your hackneyed third-rate writing.

    Seriously, if your piece wasn’t so misogynistic, it wouldn’t even be worthy of notice.

    Michael Richards was ‘attempting satire’ too. But at least he has the excuse of being a ‘comedian’.

    What’s your excuse?

  11. 20

    You’re on a blog that lets you use any ‘nym you want, no log-in required. Yet you couldn’t figure out how to write “Ed Rybicki” instead of “disappointed.” And you couldn’t figure out how to write your comment in a way that would make it clear to people who don’t recognize your picture that you are, in fact, you. You couldn’t figure out how to write “I” instead of the third-person “the author.”

    I totes believe you.

    PS – Your story was offensive and the shit you and your pal Henry Gee are getting is well-deserved.

  12. 22

    Amazing: someone writes something whimsical, which pokes fun at middle-aged men, and suddenly it becomes about stereotyping women?

    Translation: I used some cheap-ass, cliched, dated stereotypes about women because I thought it would be funny, because isn’t everyone stuck in the 50s like I am, and suddenly it’s a big deal? Sheesh! You chicks are so fucking sensitive! I mean, who would have thought that women were conscious enough to fucking notice in the first place! What a surprise!

  13. 25

    The sock puppet tactic you are using… so shameful. I’m embarrassed for you.

    It certainly is indicative of your real motive. Stirring up controversy to artificially inflate apparent interest in your book.

    I really don’t have a dog in the elevator incarnation of the gender debate. Everything has been said a lot better than I could, and I’m frankly almost bored of it. The only thing that keeps me clicking on these stories is the bizarre little people like you.

    I rather enjoy stories about weirdos. Like Mabus. So this is me rubbernecking at your train-wreck in the footnotes of footnotes.

    I am looking forward to your awkward next step. After that, I think I can tolerate a few more posts.

    After that… Ed who?

  14. 28

    You fail at ‘ignoring’ people, you stupid ass.

    You were right earlier though. Watching you try to ‘ignore’ us by telling us how much you’re ignoring us is proving to be quite enjoyable. Please tell me for a third time how you’re ‘ignoring’ us. Maybe this time throw in an “I CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALALALALALALA” while you’re at it?

  15. 30

    Ed, you can stick your fingers in your ears all you like and talk about “whining noises” however there are substantive criticisms of your story which any writer who wishes to be taken seriously should be able to address. To ignore them makes you look childish, and just heaps insult onto injury.

    Firstly there is the consistent criticism from many that the story is, simply, not that good. The writing is poor, and badly wanted an editor. It lacks the pace a short story requires to be engaging, it is paragraph after paragraph of you telling rather than showing, and it relies heavily on tired, hackneyed tropes. Now tropes can be used effectively in a satirical way that pokes fun at the convention; to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that was your intent leads to the conclusion that you failed badly and do not know how to write satire. The only other conclusion is that the story was sincere and you were unaware of the tropes.

    Secondly is the issue of the sexist content. Much virtual ink has been spilled on this issue so you will be aware of the criticisms. To defend your story with “but it was just humour” is cowardice. As with the tropes of bad genre fiction, you can actually write a story featuring sexist characters in order to satirise the position, but again if that was your intent you failed miserably. Once again, the only other conclusion is that you were sincere in your lazy stereotypes.

    Thirdly is the issue of how this came to be published in Futures in the first place. The words “award-winning” are often attached to descriptions of Futures, implying that the quality of the writing must be of a high standard. This piece failed to match that standard. What criteria for publication does Henry Gee use? Did you simply submit this piece, or were you approached and asked to provide a story? Do you have any personal affiliation with Henry Gee and/or Nature which might have influenced the decision to include this story?

    Finally, why did you Tweet, shortly after publication, that you were “going to catch flak” for the story? This surely belies your claims to satire and shows awareness that the story would not be well received. Indeed, it shows cynical and calculated intent to cause offence. When that offence did not arise, why did Henry Gee make a comment which seems to serve no other notice than to draw attention to the story, and invite the very criticism that both you and he seem so offended to now be receiving. These are the actions of men fully aware of their actions and intent on provoking controversy. Henry Gee’s past form for insensitivity (bordering on opposition) towards gender equality, combined with his poor editorial insight in publishing this, call into question his suitability as an editor at Nature. For a man who gets so upset over discrimination towards some groups with which he identifies, one might expect him to have more awareness of discrimination towards others.

    These are questions that readers are fully entitled to ask. To ignore them and refuse to answer is one thing. To petulantly dismiss legitimate concerns about the quality of the story, the motive behind it, and the reasons for publication is highly arrogant, and quite childish. If you are proud of this story, then engage with the legitimate criticisms. Otherwise accept that you were wrong and have the decency to say sorry.

  16. 31

    Seriously, what a bunch of whining idiots, childishly ganging up on an author who obviously didn’t mean to offend anyone but rather thought he’d relate what he considered a funny story. He probably didn’t even think it would be published and probably sent it in on a lark. It seems as if you’ve analyzed this work like a Shakespearian play instead of reading it like a comic book. Get some lives!

  17. 32

    Seriously, what a bunch of whining idiots, childishly ganging up on an author who obviously didn’t mean to offend anyone but rather thought he’d relate what he considered a funny story. He probably didn’t even think it would be published and probably sent it in on a lark. It seems as if you’ve analyzed this work like a Shakespearian play instead of reading it like a comic book. Get some lives!

    Ed sockpuppeting again? Or is Henry Gee chiming in to lick the bootprint off Eddie’s wrinkled ass?

  18. 33

    Hello. I’m from The Internet.

    I’ve recently had my attention drawn to your little article, and your trope-y, trite, buffoonish attempts at humor. Man alive, was I not only amsued, I was delighted.

    here is is, 2011, and the once-thought-extinct Aenean testis stupidus is not only not extinct, but by somehow managing to ensnare itself a bride, managing to mate in captivity! Hurrah!

    You’ll see here, dear gentlefolk, how the commenting in-and-out responses mating dance behavior that tells us our specimine is the even more beloved and rare Troglodytarum subspecies.

    Unfortunately, though, it won’t ever do anything productive if we keep feeding it–so make sure you only do so as long as its antics are amusing. It isn’t a person after all, but we’re certain its spouse really would like it back eventually.

    Best wishes on your next clutch, little T. Stupidus! The world is counting on your colorful efforts.

    – stars

  19. 34

    Childish like “whining noise, must ignore”?

    Childish like ignoring legitimate comments?

    Excuse me, you are quite right. We mistook this for a short story printed in the science journal Nature. In their award-winning and highly regarded Futures section, which features science fiction and speculative stories of the highest literary merit.

    So you are quite right, how very dare we expect it to live up to those standards.

    And clearly you don’t read comic books. The quality of writing, the imaginative storytelling, and the sensitivity towards issues of discrimination and prejudice blow Ed’s work out of the water.

    But yeah, good point well made…

  20. 35

    childishly ganging up on an author who obviously didn’t mean to offend anyone

    If he didn’t mean to offend and didn’t want to offend then he should welcome being told that he did, in fact, offend. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we react when our lapses of judgment are brought to our attention that best defines what our actual position is.

  21. 38

    You had no problem using your real name on Contemplative Mammoth. Where you wrote in first person…

    But here (in your initial sock puppetry) you say:

    someone writes something whimsical” and “the author was…”

    I saw something more intense than ‘praise’. I saw a person defending the author’s writing style, and with an inexplicable intimacy with the author’s true intentions.

    I bet this was all just some deep satire, and we’re all a punchline to some great joke you are surely about to let loose.

    Look, I serve with brave women in the Army. I serve under fully competent and battle-hardened women. They can take jokes, they can take whimsy, they can take misguided charm… but they will not take shit from people. Especially civilians who would boil them down to ‘shopping’, and go out of their way to say “see what I did there? I said you females could be stereotyped on an astronomical scale. You better laugh at my jokes.”

    I’ve made bad jokes before. I’ve been insensitive before. Everyone does it at some point. You did it on a national level so you should expect some lumps when the joke falls flat.

    But your editor purposely ginned this controversy up when nobody noticed your ‘satire’… Do you really want to be known for this?

    This is nothing like when a public figure uses an italian accent in a joke, only to receive 99 positive letters, and one angry rant from the Italian American Anti-Defamation League (or whatever).

    Your story had no vast general audience. You both are simply trolling for exactly this reaction.

  22. 39

    Psst. Ed. T. Stupidus. Over here?

    Yeah, so listen, sockpuppet-ing is sort of lame, right? It’s not something you’d ever do, is it? No? Okay, great, that aside…

    It’s really not healthy to write about yourself in the third person, unless you’re writing consecutively in the third person. I mean, it might be your species’ way of communication and far be it for me to bag on your cultural mores or whatever, but… well… it’s generally considered sort of crazy.

    And you’re not crazy, right?

  23. 42

    I do agree that the quality is not top-notch and to be honest after reading it I was surprised it was published at all. What I’m getting at is that people just seem to be taking it so seriously, with no good reason really. Obviously the only commenters are those where it struck a nerve, those trying to show that they care or those who just use these debates as a way to show off their literary prowess and impressive vocabulary (oooo I can do it too, yippee!) Amazing how you all get your backs up when someone tries to offer a different perspective too…sheesh, just sheesh

  24. 44

    Disappointed too:

    Get some lives!

    Cupcake, you’re the sexist arsehole who wrote an egregious essay and who is now trying to pull off a Scott Adams*. You’re just as pathetic at it, too.

    It’s not us who needs to ‘get a life’. Rather, it seems you are in dire need of an education so that you can be a better person in your life. Learning about tropes, privilege and how you are blithely reinforcing entrenched sexism could go a long way in not only improving your life, but those who now suffer under your sexist, arsehole attitudes**.

    *Figuring out how to get a placeholder gravatar isn’t hiding your identity. The content of your posts is the giveaway. This has been a free protip.

    **No, “my wife laughed” isn’t a get out of sexism card.

  25. 45

    Does Ed really manage to make any money as an author? Surely not. That’s pure drivel.

    He and Henry Gee are like Tucker Max, except bad at it.

  26. 46

    You know what sucked about the story besides the misogyny, at least for me? He tells us there’s this alternate universe that certain people can enter and exit at will. This could have actually been interesting, but instead he figures we’d rather hear about shopping and jokes that were old in the ’50s.

    I suppose the missing ingredient is ‘talent’.

  27. 47

    To re-iterate, I am not Ed or McGee. Just because I wish to remain anonymous now I’m labelled as the author? The reason for remaining anonymous should be clear – look at all the aggression being thrown about here. I just thought I’d offer a different perspective. Ed hardly “sockpuppeted” since his picture was his avatar – this debate has become a farce of trying to label me as Ed or McGee and detracts from the essence of the debate. The story was probably not intended to harm. Yes, the author should have defended his case better – perhaps by apologizing. Who knows, he may still – and personally, I hope he does.

  28. 49

    What I’m getting at is that people just seem to be taking it so seriously, with no good reason really.

    Yeah, right, demeaning women is nothing to take seriously.

    Anyway, what’s your good reason for taking this so seriously?

  29. 55

    a science fiction parody…

    It may be a parody, it even arguably might be a parody, but it sure ain’t science fiction.

    (PS why the ellipsis?
    Does it indicate you ran out of words, or that your thinking ceased abruptly at that point?)

  30. 56

    My good reason is that I found it to be a tongue in cheek, slightly humorous article. I just don’t get all the people who are up-in-arms about it and I merely wished to offer a different perspective.

  31. 59

    So, if one finds it to be “a tongue in cheek, slightly humorous article”, it’s worth taking it seriously enough to comment about people’s comments on it, but if others find it a mediocre, misogynistic and offensive piece, it’s not worth taking seriously enough to comment on it.

    (Nice perspective, that)

  32. 60

    Ah, I see; you have adopted your own idiosyncratic usage of that form of punctuation, archly disdaining conventional use.

    PS That should’ve been ellipsis, not ellipses — you only employed one.

    (No need to thank me for that tip)

  33. 61

    Thank you! Just got tired of author-dude whining, “WAAAAH, PEEPULZ CRITICIZIN’ MAH STOREEEE!”

    Assuming the author is an adult, he should be able to handle a little criticism. SRSLY.

  34. 66

    What amazes me is the bitterness and hatred people feel towards someone who was published in Nature. Why read it if it offends you, and why subscribe to Nature if the editor is inept. It seems that you all should get out a little more……….. oh yes, before we throw bricks and matches, I am Ed Rybicki’s sister, and very, very honoured to be related to him. He has probably achieved more, in a serious career, than most of you, and he isnt a serious writer, this is why these rabid rants, flecked with a desperately bitter hysteria are actually very funny. I am pleased that I have very little to do, ever, with blogs like these, because you seem to be very angry people! Throw your energies into banning Fracking, or supporting the Occupy movements worldwide, instead of treating someone who you dont know with such bile. Adios all, have fun. and Ed, this is extremely funny, they are all angry little people, you should write some more!

  35. 67

    If anyone wants a good laugh, there’s a pompous number going by the name of Peter Welch defending Rybicki’s little mess on Contemplative Mammoth

    If you follow his through to his blog it’s full of “essays”. I haven’t read much of them – tiny print and it’s late here – but I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen. Have fun.

  36. 69

    If homeskillet is going to write an article or story or whatevs that he knows is going to cheese people right the heck off, then he really shouldn’t whinge so much about people making fun of him.

    I mean, this is stuff we learned in grade school. Either grow some backbone and tell people to stuff it with a grin or acknowledge you said something offensive and apologize.

    Maybe crack a joke or two at your own expense. This is how you Win At The Internets.

  37. 70

    @ Dana, are you published? Do you have links to any of your work? i would seriously, with no satire intended, like to read something of yours. You seem to have a lot of passion and fire, could be interesting.

  38. 72

    “bitterness and hatred”

    You mean “scorn and derision”. Well-deserved, considering not only the quality of that piece (ever heard of ‘publish and be damned’?) but also the arrogance of the trolling from the supporters.

    Rabid rants and hysteria? Nah, it’s a shite piece. Why are you taking it so much to heart if it’s not serious writing?

    Why object to it being published in Nature? Apart from it being a pisspoor effort in what is supposed to be a reputable journal? Well, this person publishes scientific texts. If his powers of observation and reasoning are as poor in his professional writings, there is cause for concern.

    “Honoured to be related to him”… It was an accident of nature. Where’s the honour in that? You can be proud of a relative’s achievements, but honoured to be in their family? What a weird, uncritical mentality.

    I need a good book.

  39. 74

    Meg, you are on my blog. It is filled with my work – including recent posts on some of those serious social issues you’re so very concerned about. I suggest you start there. And be careful insulting my readers – they are smart, accomplished people, many with careers in science, who are upset at your inane brother because he so handily insulted their intelligence. Much as you have done. Perhaps before attempting to insult them further, you should click through to their blogs, where you might discover their entire lives do not revolve around giving your brother some well-deserved criticism.

  40. 75

    someone who was published in Nature

    To its detriment.

    Why read it if it offends you

    Um, because one can’t know whether one finds it offensive until one reads it, and one doesn’t expect such dreck* in Nature?

    Ed, this is extremely funny, they are all angry little people

    … says the person who feels honoured on the basis they came out of the same vagina as that pipsqueak whose farcical efforts are being derided, not at all angrily.


    * Well, I hope we don’t come to expect such.
    That would be just sad.

  41. 76

    If Megan is actually Ed’s sister, and not just another pathetic sockpuppet, I have to wonder how the exchange that brought her here went.

    “Mmeeeeeeeeeeeegaaaaaaaaaan people are saying mean things about me on the interneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!” (/cartman)

    “Don’t worry Eddie, I’ll tell them all how smart and talented and kewl and awesome you are. They’re just jealous of your awesome talents!”

  42. 78

    ‘Meg Rybicki’:

    It seems that you all should get out a little more……….. oh yes, before we throw bricks and matches, I am Ed Rybicki’s sister

    You know what would make a better essay in Nature? The fact that Ed, his so-called defender Disappointed Too and you all share exact sentences, general content and the same grammar quirks, such as using an ellipsis and managing to do it incorrectly. (It’s three dots, not a random row. This is akin to those who use multiple exclamation marks. A sign of an unsound mind and all that.)

  43. F

    Then defend the damned parody already.

    Show us so we can tell the difference between a sexist lameass and a lameass who can’t write parody. Demonstrate o which side of Poe’s Law the story lies.

  44. 82

    A “different perspective”? You mean, the same old perspective we’ve all heard for decades and that has been in operation for thousands of years (“A woman is always buying something” – Ovid)?

  45. 83

    I’m assuming you got paid for your article in Nature. And yet you’re mocking other people for having large vocabularies? What is this, middle school?

    I suppose such displays of egregious failure being rewarded by allegedly reputable journals shouldn’t shock me these days. Nevertheless, I’m still somewhat surprised that you chose to mock someone for having a large vocabulary. I mean wow. It really doesn’t get much stupider than that.

  46. 86

    Damn, if it were my brother writing sexist dreck, announcing that he expected to “catck flak” about it, then mewling like a titty-baby when he did get criticized for it, I’d give him a smack upside the head. I wouldn’t join in the pathetic mewling about getting criticism about something that he himself admits was not well-written!

    But maybe that’s because I’m not my brother’s sockpuppet.

  47. 89

    To be considered funny a story should generate chuckles, gaffaws, mirth, and other forms of jocularity from the reader. Unfortunately, Ed, your story fails in this particular regard. I didn’t even grin during the entire time I read the story.

    The “it was just a joke, can’t you take a joke?” defense is used by bullies when caught bullying. The funniness of your story falls in the same category as the bullys’ “jokes.”

  48. 91


    Yeah, the last time I was mocked for having a large vocabulary was in middle school! And then I expanded my vocabulary further by listening to George fucking Carlin. Apparently it isn’t quite as amusing to mock someone’s vocabulary when said someone is capable of verbally ripping you three new assholes with a <a href=";.

    Much like George, words are my “thing”, they’re my bag, man.

  49. 92

    @Sally Strange — The last time I recall being harassed/teased about having an extensive vocabulary was, whoa, way back in middle school.

    Then I discovered George Carlin. It’s not so much fun when the smart kid whips around and declaws you with a well-placed Precision F-Strike.

  50. 93

    Sorry about that brief stay in moderation hell. Our server’s acting the idiot again, and the spam filter refused to approve anything while its shennanigans were going on.

  51. 97

    Contemptuous is a big word. I gather the Rybicki family find those pretentious. You don’t expect a Rybicki to waste time mucking about for the correct word when there’s a sorta-kinda-almost-but-not-really-correct word right at hand, do you?

    (I’ll bet you use thesauri. Show off.)

  52. 98

    It seems as if Ed’s first sockpuppet attempt failed since he didn’t realize that his Gravatar would still appear for the same e-mail address (not that most people would recognize him). Then he deleted his Gravatar image but kept the same pseudonym. this scale of incompetence reminds me of a very fat cat trying to hide behind a daisy and thinking itself invisible.

  53. 101

    …and why, for the love of god, do people assume that because you are published, your publication is worth the paper and the ink? ed’s “story” would be the latest example why not, and so are numerous books and articles and… that is why you learn to take up “critical reading” – like, about in eighth grade. “but it’ been published” is not a proof of quality.

  54. 102

    Here, I am assuming that Disappointed too is also Ed. With near identical syntax it is likely, but perhaps Dana can verify if the IP addresses are the same? If not, I will of course apologise to Disappointed too.

    I do agree that the quality is not top-notch and to be honest after reading it I was surprised it was published at all.

    This then goes to my point about the supposed quality of the Futures section. As an “award-winning” section showcasing cutting-edge, literate speculative fiction and SF, why would you submit something that you knew to be sub-standard?

    I ask again: were you asked to submit a piece? Were you asked to submit a piece on this particular type of topic? If so, who approached you?

    If you weren’t, why did you think below-par work should have been sent to a quality journal printing quality fiction.

    And questions really have to be asked about Henry Gee’s motivations in rejecting other pieces which may have been of higher quality in order to publish this. What was his agenda in doing so. What is your relationship Ed, to both Nature and to Henry Gee. Is there a personal relationship there that allows you to get ahead of other writers, better writers, and have your work published?

    This is to the detriment of Futures as a showcase for writing, to the detriment of SF and spec-fic as genres, and to your own personal detriment, as you are coming out of this as childish and insulting.

    What I’m getting at is that people just seem to be taking it so seriously, with no good reason really.

    You stated in advance on Twitter that you were going to be getting flak for it. When that didn’t happen Henry Gee incited the flak. Both of you wanted it to be taken seriously. Why?

    And Ed, many highly intelligent people with successful careers in both science and publishing have criticised this piece strongly. Stop being defensive long enough and think like a scientist. If so many people, so many of your own colleagues in the sciences, are upset by this, doesn’t it strike you that there might actually be a reason for that? That they have just cause for taking it seriously?

    The poor quality of this piece calls into questions your ability as a writer, Henry Gee’s ability as an editor of a section on Fiction, and Nature’s reasons for carrying fiction. That alone is bad enough. However the content of the story, your and Henry’s reactions before, during and afterwards, your dismissive and demeaning reactions to your own peers in the sciences betray some deeply disturbing truths about your attitudes and those of Henry Gee. Ultimately, that calls into question the attitudes of Nature itself. And once one of the best-known journals in the world can have it’s credibility called into question, isn’t that something worth taking seriously?

  55. 103

    The reason for remaining anonymous should be clear – look at all the aggression being thrown about here.

    Actually, people tend to be more aggressive towards anonymous people. Because you can dissociate them from being real, and treat them in a way you would never treat a real person. Posting with a name and a face tends to deter all but the most dedicated trolls (who themselves will be anonymous) from being objectionably insulting.

    As for the aggression, don’t confuse the offence caused by the story, and harsh criticism of the content, for aggression towards the author.

    If you want aggression, consider that the author and his supporters appeared, and rather than defend the work and provide counter-arguments to the criticism, they began to patronise people, telling them why they are stupid for being upset, telling them they are pathetic and have no real problems, and then doing the cyber of equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears. That’s when the aggression started.

  56. 104

    Different IP, fake email. Considering IPs aren’t a foolproof way of determining identity, I’d say jury’s out. If Disappointed Too wants to prove his credentials as a non-sockpuppet, he can contact me directly. I won’t out a legitimate person.

  57. 105

    Might as well take this opportunity to say that I am loving the scathing literary critiques, Paul! Almost makes me want to publish something horrid in Nature just for the pleasure of watching you rip it to shreds, from which I can then build a thing of beauty. ;-)

  58. 106

    Point of order, Justin me old mate. Teh Intarwebz aren’t (yet) behind a Great American Firewall.

    Therefore sunny Jim here made a fool of himself on an international level. Silly, silly, boy.

    (yes, that is sexist. I’m trying to teach the apologists by example here)

  59. 107

    I leave the virology one to the virologists. The personal blog is the sort of thing that would be read by close friends and family but is unlikely to attract a more critical audience. He really isn’t at all good at comedy or satire.

    Incidentally, I find it telling that he thinks asking someone if they use a thesaurus is an insult. Any serious writer should possess both a good thesaurus and a good dictionary. Not concise versions. And the writer should be prepared to use them, read them, dip into them to discover new language and idioms.

    Odd that a writer should scorn thne tools of the trade, even if he’s only an amateur.

  60. 111

    Ed (who is my big brother, and one I am very, very proud of), didnt bring my attention to his article, or the reaction to it. My daughter who is a rabid feminist actually sent me the link. I don’t know anybody here personally, so will not take umbrage at some of the silly things that have been said, but wonder, again, what gives people the urge to be so vicious online. I am an environmental activist, so much of my work has to be online, to gather people and information together, but happily havnt come across anything like this. Are you all American?

  61. 112

    Nope. I’m Scottish, living in London.

    What does nationality have to do with it? Looking at the stats of where people have come from to read my own open letter to Nature, your brother has managed to upset scientists (his colleagues and peers in other words) on a global scale.

    So maybe he should consider why so many scientists are upset. From what I know of scientists, when a hell of a lot of them are all saying the same thing, then there tends to be some truth to it…

  62. 113

    Although come to think of it Meg, would you describe your own daughter as a “rabid feminist”? Isn’t that a little insulting? I’ve only ever seen the phrase used contemptuously by people who are hostile to the concept of gender equality.

    I don’t know you, so I can’t comment on the quality of your relationship with your daughter, but that sounds more like the words of a man who is hostile to feminism pretending to be a woman with a daughter who is a feminist so “hey, it’s ok, I don’t really hate women”, than the words of a mother about their own daughter.

    “Feminist”. “Committed feminist”. “Passionate feminist”. But “rabid feminist”? Either you and your daughter don’t get along, or the stench of socks is strong with this one.

  63. 114

    It doesn’t matter if Meg is a sockpuppet or not. Not really.

    so much of my work has to be online, to gather people and information together, but happily havnt come across anything like this.

    hahahahahaha, must be new to this internet thing. Or are you just that sheltered and privileged?

    There is nothing more pathetic to me in the literary world, than an author who has to try to ‘drum up’ support online for his terrible writing by sockpuppeting in various forums, or recruiting his family members into defending him.

    Please don’t stop though. This is far more entertaining and amusing than a cheesy fake apology or halfassed admittance of error.

    Stick to your guns, Rybicki! Show the world what a classy guy you are. Maybe next you can send your wife in here to tell us what a clever guy you are.

  64. 115

    Blast you, Ryan, and your quicker-on-the-draw and your not-rushing-out-the-door-this-morning! I was going to make that point, but I suppose those are my just desserts for waking up so late in the day.

    It’s still a dead horse I’ll beat further up the thread.

  65. 117

    Dear Meg;

    Listen, I don’t really expect you to take anything I say seriously after the whole “farting noise” crack (I mean, that is the point of it, after all.) but I need you to listen, and listen carefully.

    “Rabid feminist” is not only a non-complimentary phrase that won’t earn you any brownie points with this crowd, but if your daughter is passionate about her cause, then your language is also going to either further estrange her or cause a rift.

    I also have to ask where she came across this link, a geology and tequila loving blog like this doesn’t really strike me as the sort of thing someone who gets marginalized as a “rabid feminist” would read.

    I’m coming at this perhaps from a different angle. I had the audacity to be born the recessive gene trait in the deep south–to a mother who understood that the only way to protect her rights, and mine, was to question the patriarchy in level and civil discourse.

    In other words, I listened to a lot of Helen Reddy growing up.

    As an Environmentalist, I’m sure you have to understand that phrases like “Tree Hugger” and other dismissive terms do only harm to the whole movement, not just the marginalized, fringe extreme.

    So please, as a mother, stop. You’re not doing anyone who gives a damn about you or your daughter or your opinions any favors by using minimizing language to discuss a very vocal minority among a group which, sadly, needs to be more vocal across the world.



  66. 118

    If her daughter really is a feminist, this makes me very sad. I picture her asking mother why Uncle Eddie wrote that crap and insists on defending it, followed by lots of mansplaining on the part of Meg.

    I’m saying this all on the assumption that Meg is actually Meg, and not just Eddie in cyberdrag (after all, it’s not inconceivable for brother and sister to have similar or near identical typing patterns) but I still don’t really buy it.

    This is after all a classic desperation move for bad writers.
    If his writing won’t be recognized as ‘good’ or even ‘decent’, then at least he can try to drum up some controversy- after all, any attention is good attention to a guy like Ed.

    He should really be thanking us.

  67. 121

    Meg/Ed You’re mistaking contempt and amused pity for hatred–not uncommon among offenders.

    People subscribed to Nature because, until now, they didn’t expect to find it publishing this kind of garbage. They will know better when subscription renewal time comes around.

  68. 123

    I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but for some reason I always imagined that people who edited or wrote for major journals were sensible, scholarly and placed great value on being able to assess any writing for relevance, quality and intrinsic value.

    After all, what would be the point otherwise?

    With these kinds of disasters, all journals get slightly tarnished. I don’t trust them to be balanced or objective; they’re edging towards tabloid journalism in order to chase an audience I don’t want to be part of.

    And yes, the ‘rabid feminist’, in the context of that comment, is as sockpuppety as they come. Oh, and anyone can post from different IPs simultaneously; by switching my laptop to my satellite roaming connection, I can use two different IPs at the same desk.

  69. 124

    Anyone who thinks it is clever to use silly words like “sock puppetry” and talk about farting (possibly some blog “in-speak” that I will happily never understand) does not get my respect either. Ed wrote a piece that none of you liked. Get over it. Don’t start insulting someone you don’t know because you feel that he doesn’t write well. It would be ironic one day if any of you scientists bumped into him in a work capacity. That is the problem with the internet, it gives people an anonymous blanket to hide behind , and as they say in ireland, “hurl from the ditches”. I use my real name because I don’t feel the need to have a silly maky uppy one. My daughter is a rabid feminist, she is at uni (studying neuroscience, so she is able to read nature) and is also violently against Israel, the occupation of Gaza, West Bank, Hydraulic Fracturing, factory farming, and many other causes. I would be sad if at this stage of her life she wasnt rabid about something! Yes I am an environmental activist, and a campaigner, so you can google me and laugh at me some more, your problems , not mine. I am happy to be proud of my brother, and this is less about his writing, than the projectile posting that followed. The one time I did have a rather bitchy rant at someone online, was the time that I realised that we needed this person in his professional capacity, in our fight against Hydraulic Fracturing here in Ireland, which was a faux pas. You people are so paranoid about “sock puppets” or other silly made up personas, that you are missing the point. I have the right to comment on any blog that I wish to. I have not insulted you, and wouldn’t. You are all so passionate about something as irelevent as a piece of writing, go and pour that passion into making a real difference in the world, it needs it.

  70. 125

    anyone on here know of geologists, or hydraulogists who would be able to give advice on some “bad science” spouted by one of the gas exploration company in Ireland, during their submissions to our parliament (Oireachtas) Happily for you, my last word, have non violent direct action to take care of. adios.

  71. 126

    Okay, I’m calling bullshit here. First, if you really were an environmental activist doing a lot of outreach online, you would not be at all surprised at the “hatred” directed at you — oops, I mean your brother — in fact, you would find it downright mild compared to the vitriol spewed by AGW denialists every day. (Also, if you — sorry, your brother — were at all familiar with literary criticism, then, again, you would not find our criticism here out of the ordinary.)

    And second, if your own daughter was a feminist, would you really be calling her “rabid?” Comparing your own daughter to a dog deranged by a disease that she spreads by random vicious biting attacks isn’t exactly complimentary.

  72. 128

    Anyone who thinks it is clever to use silly words like “sock puppetry” and talk about farting…

    …is still at least a little more clever than someone who calls her own daughter “rabid” and expects to be taken seriously.

  73. 129

    …(after all, it’s not inconceivable for brother and sister to have similar or near identical typing patterns)…

    I don’t buy that. Girls and boys generally pick up verbal skills at very different paces, so I find it laughably improbable that a brother and sister would develop the same oral or written speaking styles — especially when one is (allegedly) older than the other. Even if they were twins, it’s still highly unlikely they’d have the same writing styles.

  74. 130

    You are all so passionate about something as irelevent as a piece of writing, go and pour that passion into making a real difference in the world, it needs it.

    If you really felt that way, you’d be letting this kerfuffle die and practicing what you preach.

  75. 131

    “Raging Bee” – you are all so sad. Ed was published, you didnt like it, so you all bitched and whinged horribly. Unfortunately my name looms large on many sites, as yes, I am busy working towards preventing hydraulic fracturing in Ireland, unlike the US, we are going to fight this before it happens, not turn around afterwards and wail that the gas companies are baddies. Still debating whether or not I am real or not is a bit headage up bum, So buzz off you angry apis, I’m off to speak to real people, as I am still incredulous that forums like this exist. eeeeesh. feel like washing my hands.

  76. 132

    Oh well, at least you didn’t compare me to a deranged diseased animal who has to be killed for the protection of innocent people. Does that mean you like me less than your daughter, or more?

  77. 135

    Oh Dana, I did not know you were so insecure that you had to delete my comment raising your lack of publications. Give up the blogging, work hard and get some publications and then maybe you will get some respect from the wider world. Until then just remember that Ryblicki is a far superior scientist to you (and frankly to everyone else out here, including PZ).

  78. 137

    Oh, Honey Bunny, it’s not the tired old insults or your superiority complex that got you spammed. Simply the sock puppet idiocy.

    You may repost your reply to Meg under your lovely little ‘nym.

  79. 139


    Hold up!


    Stop the presses! (Hehe. See what I did there? Cause, this is a blog, and it doesn’t get printed cause print is dying like an old whale on a very, very dry beach. Hee.)

    Listen everyone! Check out the above stuff from Honey Bunny and Meg!

    Apparently, according to someone who is reading a blog, devoting precious seconds of the finite resource known as “life on this earth” to commenting and even responding to comments on a blog ‘forums’ like this are below their mention and participation. Yet, they linger–drawn to the glowing screen like a pasty little moth to some technicolor flame.

    Apparently someone isn’t aware of how the blogosphere works. And, if Honey Bunny isn’t the same person, we have another person who apparently doesn’t know the rules of the internet.

    As the man once said “Not sure if trolling or just very stupid.”

    For now, I think I’m going to assume that the two (ladies?) are of at least a room temperature IQ so trolling it is.

    In which case, allow me to be the first to congratulate you on a (semi) successful troll.


  80. 140

    honey bunny whoever you are, well said, I am pleased that I don’t know “the rules” of the internet, who makes those rules? saddos. Ed is a brilliant scientist, he is a great person, and his article made me laugh, because I have seen him shopping. What sad and depleted lives all these awful people must have, desperately insulting people they have never met, projectile posting, and being so terrifically clever in their replies! Rules, sockpuppets, what utter and total piffle. They have to be American!

  81. 142

    Haha, good one, Meggie.

    Man, oh, man. I’m so glad you dragged nationality into this. I thought the whole “Americans Are Stupid” meme went out of fashion sometime around the middle of the last decade.

    It’s kinda retro in that “useless hipster” sort of way. Almost refreshing, with that bitter tang of jealous resentment. Sort of like a good IPA. Flowery, sweet with faux-genuine concern, and with that clean bitter jealous finish on the back of the palate.

    Now if only the packaging weren’t so blasted unattractive.

  82. 143

    First, congrats to you and you’re brother for being two of the dumbest people on the internet. That’s quite an accomplishment.

    Second, the misogyny your brother puked all over the pages of a once-reputable publication is in no way innocent, innocuous or meaningless. It is part of a bigotry that is omnipresent. If affects you and the daughter you clearly have no respect for as well. And once you stop desperately tap dancing for Ed’s approval and grow the fuck up, you’ll see that.

    Thirdly, when you apparently have nothing better to do than ineptly defending your indefensible dipshit of a brother on line, you might want to rethink telling others to go out and make a real difference in the world. I already do that. You, on other hand, insult your daughter in defense of your worthless brother. Grow up, get a life and stop being such an ass to your daughter.

  83. 144

    Oh, Dana. Don’t tell me you are a self-appointed Knight of the SoquePupet Destruction Coterie with GLad the Brave and Stephanie the Exceptionally Witty? And here I was just getting to like you…

    Do you not see what an asinine distraction it is from the business at hand? Who gives a crap whether dudeman’s sister, cousin or his own segmented personality is commenting? Knock down the defense, job well done. Simple as cherpumple pie. Obsession with it being Ed’s sister is nothing more or less than the ad hominem strategy…which ain’t a strong one folks.

    (I woulda used one of my numerous and hilarious sockpuppets for this purpose, but since we’re newly acquainted and all…)

  84. 148

    There are actually plenty of particulars like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to deliver up. I provide the ideas above as basic inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you convey up where a very powerful factor will probably be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged round things like that, however I’m certain that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys feel the affect of just a moment’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

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