Fishboob Fail 09

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The cover of the August 2009 issue of Realms of Fantasy, the focus of Fishboob Fail 09.

Now, it almost goes without saying that some women simply can’t handle the fact that anyone would actually be attracted to a pleasantly-fit woman with pleasantly-round breasts. I mean, that’s just the epitomy of awful. Men being attracted to pleasantly-fit women with pleasantly-round breasts? My God! What about all the dumpy fat women, shaped like pears and with cottage cheese down their thighs? What about them?! Who is making them feel beautiful and appreciated??

Clearly, the mermaid on the cover of ROF is an assault on the sensibilities of fat, homely, or otherwise visually-not-so-hot women everywhere. Clearly, something must be done.

And we’re off to the races.

—Brad R. Torgersen,

Fishboob Fail 09 (also referred to as BoobFail, CoverFail, HarlanFail or RealmsFail) is a kerfluffle which broke out in science fiction and fantasy fandom in July 2009. The focus was the August 2009 cover of Realms of Fantasy magazine, which was revealed earlier in the year but became the focus of more attention at Readercon and caused some to accuse the magazine of sexism. Many of the same individuals who were involved in Race Fail 09 were involved in this incidence of Fail.



A mock cover for Realms of Fantasy made by "Charlotte", a commenter on K. Tempest Bradford's blog on July 20, 2009[1].

Discussion of the August 2009 cover of Realms of Fantasy - the first cover under its new production at Tir Na Nog Press - first began in June 2009 after a link to it in Nick Mamatas' LiveJournal.[2] Most of the discussion mocked the idea of a fish with "boobs" - nipple-less boobs, no less, only vaguely touching on the subject of sexism.

Then on July 20, 2009, K. Tempest Bradford made a post about a discussion she'd had at Readercon with Warren Lapine and Douglas Cohen of Tir Na Nog Press regarding the cover.[3] She asked him if there might be some equal time given to "male asses" on future covers, given that (as Warren apparently acknowledged) readership of Realms of Fantasy is 4-1 female. Douglas Cohen then jumped into the comment thread, objecting to the way his part of the discussion was paraphrased and presented.[4] "I’ve rather had my fill of flame wars in the past, so believe it or not I am looking to avoid one now," he began, and after discussing the current situation with their back inventory of artwork from the previous publisher, presenting his side of the issue, he concluded with: "The bottom line is that there is no agenda in place under the new publisher (or by me) to have artwork featuring hot naked babes to move copies. How about you wait a few issues? You’ll see for yourself soon enough." Warren Lapine also responded.[5]

Douglas Cohen made a separate post about the Realms of Fantasy Art Department[6], and conversation and debate continued to spread elsewhere. A commenter named "Charlotte" mocked up a spoof cover for Realms of Fantasy featuring a nude male fantasy figure[7], which K. Tempest Bradford featured in a post on July 21.[8] Warren Lapine was not especially amused an in a comment to her post, remarked: Tempest, I have no problem with the image and wouldn’t bounce it if an Art Director brought it to me. But I have to admit that the cover text bums me out. I thought we were having a valuable conversation here and now I discover you’re just mocking and belittling us.[9]

Harlan Ellison was also not amused, apparently at having his name invoked on the spoof cover. On July 23, he posted the following message on his web board[10]:

- Thursday, July 23 2009 19:27:11


For those of you who lust to box the ears of the Terminally Moronic whose pustulent
idiocy has made the internet a plague-spa, one of my casual friends has pased along 
the name of the looneytune who started this whole "REALMS OF FANTASY-Ellison is a 
sexist" offensiveness.

Her name is Kay Tempest Bradford.

And she has a blog, I guess.

She has dummied-up a truly insulting mock-cover of REALMS that is intended to be 
offensive to anyone who values my sixty years' work. Now: watch your step. She is 
apparently a Woman of Color (which REALLY makes me want to bee-atch-slap her, being 
the guy who discovered and encouraged one of the finest writers and Women of Color 
who ever lived, my friend, the recently-deceased Octavia Estelle Butler). And she 
plays that card endlessly, which is supposed to exorcise anyone suggesting she is a 
badmouth ignoramus, or even a NWA. Ooooh, did I say that?

Well, folks, if you'd like to give this termagant a taste of her own approbrium, you
got the Public Name in a Public Place, so have at it. Even those of you who are Merely 
Women, or even Women of Cuhluh.

Hey, Kay, mama, y'wanna get into it with me, bring it swineherd!

Yr. Pal, Harlan

Harlan's comments caused considerable outrage and was pointed out as a major incident of Race Fail by numerous individuals.[11],[12],[13],[14],[15] On July 24, Harlan posts another entry in his blog, attempting an apology for his words the day before. He posted[16]:

- Friday, July 24 2009 16:35:36


Dear Ms. Bradford:

You have a number of good friends who also happen to be good friends of mine. They 
have rallied on your behalf, to contact me by phone (four today alone), to tan my 
bottom in regards to my, well, at best, at very minimally best, my "snarky" response 
to what I perceived to be yet another Total Stranger Meanspirited Internet Troll 
Assault. I fear there is still a tot too much "street" in me to let such perceived 
calumny go unanswered.

Apparently, I received inadequate information, some of which I interpreted 
incorrectly, some of which was simply wrong.

One of the heartrending epiphanies of the current Paradigm Shift is that the most 
adolescently ignorant demographic of this far-from-perfect society needs to (as my 
President said today) "ratchet down the noise-level." The moment one such as I goes 
for the okeydoke and begins to believe this "geezer" bullshit, is the moment one 
realizes that we like in a Momentary-Celebrity Culture, and for everyone claiming 
sexism, racism, elitism, et al ... there are 10,000 arrogant little twits, semi-
literate, semi-humanoid, and less-than-semi-courteous, who truly believe that to 
have SURVIVED and STILL BE PULLING THE PLOW, is to grant them power over you. 
Depression and anger and suicide follow therefrom.

I am 75. I'm old, I ain't senile.

I still work, I still publish, I still have very cool thoughts and do very cool 
deeds, every day. I'm not quite ready yet to let monkeybrain bloggers who need 
Google to know who Colette or Guy de Maupassant are, predicate my existence.

Mmm. I've drifted. Your friends tell me to back off and not attempt to exact the 
demonic vigerish that is my wont. Several people known and unknown to me personally 
advise me that you are rather a cranky soul yourself, so you shouldn't be TOO 'tude 
about my responding in kind.

That it turns out you're not as deserving of my bestial attentions as others I've 
used as objects of scaphism, warms my li'l ole heart, and if any part of my reply 
to your various blogs here'n'there was over the line, consider this a gentlemanly 
apologia. I know this message will get to you, via one or another conduit, so here's 
my IfYouTalkTheTalk you'd better be ready to WalkTheWalk: I have no idea where you 
live, but if you are anywhere near where I am, please name the time and the day, and 
my wife, Susan, and I would be condign taking you for an excellent meal at one of 
the great joints I frequent.

THEN--and ONLY then--you'll be able to make your own informed judgment about me. And 
you won't have to poison yourself with the fanboy/fangirl gossip that substitutes 
for ratiocination on this electronic asswipe of a medium.

You know where to find me.

Respectfully, Harlan Ellison 

On July 25, Warren Lapine attempted to defend Harlan's original statement and refute that it was reason to label him a racist.[17]

External links

June 3, 2009

July 20, 2009

July 21, 2009

July 22, 2009

July 23, 2009

July 24, 2009

July 25, 2009

July 27, 2009

July 28, 2009

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