Today in Tabs: Stooping To Conquer Is Not The Same As Punching Down

Your Monday grab bag of #longreads, featuring Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, and the flap over Franzen’s bird-conservation story.

Today in Tabs: Stooping To Conquer Is Not The Same As Punching Down
[Photo: Flickr user mark sebastian]

What better way to get the week off to a brisk and breezy start on a Monday than with a crushing truckload of



  • In the New York Review of Books, Janet Malcolm wrote about Joseph Mitchell and how he, not to put it as delicately as everyone else in the tab does, made everything up all the time, like Stephen Glass but with good writing. 5,324 words; Tabs #longread score: 2 fresh croissants on an antique oak table next to a pair of impeccably stylish glasses.

  • In the New New York Times Magazine, Lili Loofbourow profiled Tatiana Maslany, who plays all the clones on the acclaimed but still criminally underwatched BBC America show Orphan Black. It’s a rare celebrity profile that manages to weave together both the celebrity as a person and the substance of her work, and also not be boring. 4,259 words; Tabs #longread score: 18 identical thumbs up.

  • Frank Rich critiqued the entire concept of the TV news anchor for New York magazine, and by “critiqued” I mean “ridiculed at great length.” There is a lot of TV news history in there, which I found interesting. Like 5,400-ish words? Tabs #longread score: One solemn nod, followed by one vacuous catchphrase. And that’s the way I see it, tonight.

  • And of course, yesterday Rolling Stone rolled aside the stone in front of the tomb of its credibility and miraculously found nothing but this 12,500 word shroud, reported and written by Steve Coll, Sheila Coronel, and Derek Kravitz, from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. What went wrong with its infamous UVA rape story? In short: everything. The reporter, editors, and fact checkers all failed to do their jobs, and they stick by the explanation that it was out of deference to their subject and excessive caution not to re-victimize her. The NYT has a summary, and statements from reporter Sabrina Erdely and UVA President Teresa Sullivan. Jessica Testa at Buzzfeed thinks Rolling Stone is still blaming Jackie for its own failures. Which they are, to be sure, but also she did lie to them repeatedly and at great length? So. The report itself is surprisingly readable, and I haven’t watched it yet but they also had a press conference on it today, if you’re a completist. 12,500 words plus misc. self-justification; Tabs #longread score: No one will be fired for reading this.

CONTENT WARNING, Bird Puns Ahead: Franzen’s New Yorker tab about birds and conservation has caused quite a flap and ruffled some feathers in the birding community. “’Bird lover’ Jonathan Franzen commits an act of extreme intellectual dishonesty,” squawked Audubon’s Mark Jannot. Jannot’s most serious charge is that Franzen is merely seeking to feather his own nest, as a fund-raising board member of the American Bird Conservancy, which “fancies itself a competitor for funding and attention with Audubon.” This clearly stuck in Jannot’s craw, and Elizabeth Lopatto chronicles his sickest burns, which must have left Franzen feeling like Tippi Hedren. The lesson of all this is that even when he’s writing on the one subject he actually cares about, Franzen is still terrible1.

Tabs I Should Have Gotten In Before Hitting You With The Longreads, Oops: We found out what The Rock eats every day and you will need Mallory to help you get through it. Also: more practical details here. The NYT launched the Men’s Style section (example: “Should Grown Men Use Emoji“). It’s a terrible idea, executed badly. Gender is not a content vertical. Stop it. Just stop it. Please please stop it. Nitasha Tiku looks back on the Ellen Pao discrimination verdict with her characteristic subtlety and fair-mindedness. The Bitcoin Foundation is a mess, because Bitcoin only permits cooperation in the service of theft (j/k, you even have to steal alone). Read John Herrman on Amazon’s button and its new Home Services program. And finally, have you heard of The Offing? It’s a new literary magazine on the Internet. I like new things and internets, so I thought I’d pass along the word.

Speaking of new things: what’s newer than science fiction and fantasy’s favorite time period The Future? Nothing is! That’s what “the future” means. But did you know that there is a significant SF fandom that only wants ideas from the past in its futuristic literature, tyvm? Intern Avery Edison went deep inside the wholly public and external reporting about this dangerous movement:


The nominations for the Hugos, one of science-fiction and fantasy’s most prestigious awards ceremonies, have been gamed by a group of… let’s be polite and call them “conservative” voters.

Members of this campaign call themselves the Sad Puppies, a name which started as a dig at po-faced liberals who care about things, like idiots, and which they’ve stuck with for three years now, because these guys never met a victory they couldn’t make pyrrhic. They are dissatisfied with the state of current SF&F:

A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. […] These days, you can’t be sure. The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?

To remedy this, they put together a list of works which more accurately represent the genre as they see it and then voted for them as a bloc, with success: the nominations were released this weekend, and the Sad Puppies-endorsed works swept the novella and novellette categories.

John Scalzi has some thoughts about what to do from here, and Deirdre Saoirse Moen put together a Sad Puppies-free list of nominees. If you’re moved to action by the situation, a $40 non-attending WorldCon membership will allow you to vote in the final awards.

For my part, I’m counting this as more evidence that democracy just doesn’t work. If you agree, please vote Avery Edison for (Mostly) Benevolent Dictator of the World, if it ever comes up.

If it ever comes up.” *wink*!

I’d also like to note that as of today, Avery’s internship is fully sponsored, thanks to someone at Somewhere, who got in touch with me sometime about something. But email me if you’re interested in sponsoring next month’s intern, whoever that turns out to be. And keep an eye out for the forthcoming call for May intern applications, if you are an aspiring Tabs intern yourself.

Today in Newslettering: Matthew Ogle wraps up Pome after one year.


Today’s Song: Tame Impala, “`Cause I’m a Man

~God damn it! I thought I’d find those hotel registers in here. There’s nothing in here, only tabs.~

Today in Tabs still be here whenever you’re done with those longreads. At that time you will be able to find us on Fast Company (where I’m now doing a Tabs Quiz on Fridays!) and of course in your email.


1. Or, one might almost say, ha ha, wait for it: “He’s for the birds.” You cannot possibly hate me more than I hate myself.

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