In 2020, Isabel Fall became a victim of online abuse after her short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” went viral.
At the time of writing, Isabel was not yet ready to be out publicly as a trans woman, and there was a shortage of information out there about her. This lead readers to become suspicious of the story, and many read it as a right- wing transphobic piece, assuming that the author was a cisgendered male (which was not the case.)
Science fiction writer Neon Yang explained to Vox: “When the story was first published, we knew nothing about Isabel Fall’s identity, and there was a smattering of strange behaviour around the comments and who was linking to it that led people to suspect right-wing trolls were involved in this.”
Isabel, unable to deal with the harassment and bullying which resulted from her story, asked for her work to be removed from the website, and checked herself into the hospital.
Who is Isabel Fall?
Last year, Isabel Fall’s short story “I Identify as an Attack Helicopter” was uploaded onto the online science fiction magazine Clarkesworld.
The story soon received backlash from people all over the internet, who began to worry that Isabel Fall was a right- wing, transphobic troll.
The lack of information available about Isabel, and the title of the piece, which refers to a transphobic meme, only fuelled suspicions and the story and situation quickly became misread by thousands of people.
For the first time ever, Isabel opened up about what happened and the hate she received, and told Vox.
“I sought out and read everything written about the story. I couldn’t stop. It was like that old nightmare-fantasy. What if someone gave you a ledger of everything anyone’s ever said about you, anywhere? Who wouldn’t read it?”
Following the tidal wave of abuse, Isabel asked for the story to be taken down and checked herself into a psychiatric ward. Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld, removed the story from the website and uploaded a message in its place which read:
“The recent barrage of attacks on Isabel have taken a toll and I ask that even if you disagree with the decision, that you respect it. This is not censorship. She needed this to be done for her own personal safety and health.”
Isabel told Vox:
“The story was withdrawn to avoid my death. It was not withdrawn as a concession that it was transphobic or secretly fascist or too problematic for publication. When people approve of its withdrawal they are approving, even if unwittingly, of the use of gender dysphoria to silence writers.”
Isabel Fall is nominated for a Hugo Award
Isabel Fall’s newly titled “Helicopter Story” is nominated for a Hugo Award in the “Best Novelette” category.
The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention and are the most prestigious awards in science fiction.
When asked about what the honour meant to her, Isabel told Vox:
“How do I feel about the nomination? I don’t know. It’s a nice validation to know that some people liked the story enough to nominate it. But it’s also dreadful to know that this will just mean reopening the conversation, which will lead to a lot of people being hurt.”