Brisbane based author, Benjamin John Payne has, in recent years, emerged as one of the controversial figures in Australian Speculative Fiction criticism.
Payne's infamy has emerged, in part, to critical statements relating to the local authors in Australia, while also stating, in interviews, that he is "the best thing to happen to Australian fiction, ever." Ever divisive, others have labelled him a cancer, poser, and genius, all of which Payne has taken in his stride. In a 2005 interview, he said, in relation to the controversy, "Well, I got fucking background in this shit, y'know? Those cunts got government jobs, degrees in science, and bad fucking haircuts. Like I give a shit what they got to say about me." Later, in the same interview, he is reported to have laughed at the idea that some of the people he doesn't like might take things he says personally. "Christ, they don't have a fucking sense of humour, I know that--it's not like I'm talk 'bout their work, you know? I know how touchy they can be bout that shit, so I stay away, but I'd talk about them if I wanted. I'd fucking rip their shit if it was worth it. It's a shame they're so fucking retarded they're all jerking off over new Dr Who. Please, gimme an enemy I can respect. Gimme a German Death Metal Skinhead Nazi with a literature degree."
Indeed, what does mark Benjamin Payne's reviews as different from anyone else on ASif! is his single-minded determination to attack an author personally. Comments about weight, bad teeth, and mullet haircuts have all been included in his reviews. Sean Williams, the popular Adelaide author, went as far as to say that it was not Payne's opinions about his work that bothered him--he really had no idea what he was talking about, after all--but the critique of the author photo that publishers put on the back of the book was devestating. "I was a mess," Williams said in interviews after his 2006 suicide attempt. "I just couldn't stop thinking about my hairline. My tongue, too. I know I don't have a sexy tongue, but--but the way he referred to it as something that had been used to lick every lamp post and wore the signature of each as a lump..." Friends have since noticed that Williams, now clean and sober, has recently gotten married to a successful woman, and gotten himself a haircut. Payne, however, has continued, making cutting personal attacks based on rape fantasy horror fiction--"who can't pick up, hey?"--semi-autobiographical pieces--"I would've killed myself if I'd had to live with your emo shit, too"--and conventions, which he once referred to as "a collection of those losers you wouldn't make out with in High School" and who "in a desperate attempt to have that old glory... created a scene to serve their bruised middle-aged inner child".
Many have questioned why, exactly, Benjamin Payne has remained in print, and why he has continued to be so well represented on ASif!. In the past, publisher Alisa Krasnostein has replied only by saying, "He has balls."
Time has changed, however, and Krasnostein, now faced with overwhelming pressure from the elderly parents of Australian authors, has begun a collection to have Payne retired. "In a graceful way," she added, in private conversation a week ago. "A graceful rat poison way."
-- Ben Peek
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