Sunday, April 29, 2007

She's an Academic...Not a Clearly Insane Person

Locus Online has posted a very long screed by someone named Marleen Barr, in which she seems to be saying that Cho Seung-Hui's murderous rampage at Virginia Tech last week was some sort of transgressive strike at the patriarchal, hegemonic Republican culture of the area on behalf of science fiction and The Other.

(Yeah, really.)

Her second, less controversial point is that the murders shouldn't stop the teaching of genre fiction at universities in the USA. (I think. She's not very clear, even for an academic.)

Sample sentences, only slightly less coherent than the whole:
Even if Duesseldorf is rather devoid of Jews, it is also devoid of cows.

The typical Tech faculty member and administrator looks like a clone of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld — or Karen Hughes.

I believe that he carefully studied the Virginia Tech class schedule with an eye toward finding foreign-associated professors who would be concurrently teaching in close proximately.

Hence, in addition to choosing Hilscher because she too looks like an alien, I think that Cho Seung-Hui picked a female to be his first victim in order to make a statement about how Tech responds to that which is Other in relation to white male patriarchy.

Cho Seung-Hui, who prepared for his role as mass murder by doing body building exercises, turned himself into the symbol of the alien foreign born immigrant Other in relation to America who succeeded in America beyond all reasonable expectation: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Livestock are housed behind the Duck Pond. Will the sheep look up?

I know that to this day genre fiction haters are alive and well and living in the Virginia Tech English department.
This is the point where I normally would rant and holler and attack Ms. Barr's argument. Unfortunately, she has no argument, just a very perverse point of view utterly untethered to reality. Ms. Barr, you desperately need the help of mental health professionals; I hope you get it, and soon.

I did get the impression that if the dead had been more representative of the local "almost monolithic white population," she would not have been nearly as unhappy.

(And, for someone who calls herself a feminist, she has the odd habit of calling women by their first names and men by their full or last names.)

And now every single possible point of view has hijacked this horrible event for its own outside purposes. They should all be ashamed, though of course they won't be.

But, most of all, I'm appalled that Locus Online would post such a bizarre, incoherent essay. It's doubly exploitative to do so: it exploits the real horror at VT, and exploits a woman who is clearly delusional.

And if she's at all representative of the people teaching university students about genre fiction in this country, then it's long past time to get SF back into the gutters, where it belongs. Some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.

Update, 4/25: I didn't mention the fact that Barr's letter was also a thinly-veiled advertisement for her novel Oy, Pioneer, since that was just tacky, rather than insane. But she's now apparently burning up the PR wires for Pioneer, leading to this Gawker article.

Final Update, 4/29:
Locus has published several comments on Ms. Barr's letter, and the "final" one (their term) by Dr. Carl Glover sums up the whole thing nicely. I won't attempt to paraphrase it, but he answers each of Ms. Barr's specious and self-serving points, and refutes them all. I'm still not sure why Locus published Ms. Barr's letter in the first place, though.


jmnlman said...

Wow so much for Locus having standards.

John Joseph Adams said...

Andy, did you see this letter Barr sent to Gawker?

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