SUSU SCRIBBLERS: A Society's Rocky Road to SUSU Membership

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any reputable university must be in want of a creative writing society. I was delighted to find posters for SUSU Scribblers dotted around […]

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any reputable university must be in want of a creative writing society. I was delighted to find posters for SUSU Scribblers dotted around Avenue Campus before March, and soon after joining the Facebook group I posted a story.

Hoping for something below rapturous applause and above watching it fall unnoticed into the ether of Facebook’s archives, I eventually received light and encouraging feedback. At the time I thought, while it’s not the edgy literary circle I’ve always dreamed of – clinking glasses with a hodgepodge of twenty-first century Ginsbergs and Hemingways – it’s still full of twenty-somethings like myself with a passion for something more than just reading.

Soon after my first story there was talk of official SUSU affiliation. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the amicable group to descend into bitchy politics.

It began with a hilariously personal poem written by one of the joint founders of SUSU Scribblers. Its drunken and explicit defamation of someone I can only assume was romantically involved with its author received something beyond constructive feedback. My phone would not stop convulsing in lectures.

Then a bigger issue arose over whether SUSU Scribblers should accept overtly sexual material. Members were getting very upset with a few of the submissions that had some cheeky sex scenes and even an instance of fellatio, pity the soft fools.

Threats came from all sides – members and administrators threatened to leave and one administrator outright refused to read sexually explicit works. I can only assume D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley was not on his reading list. On the other side of the coin members were toying with quitting over the censorship of literature.

This frankly pathetic and overblown drama was perhaps incited by the personal distance Facebook affords; it allows hotheaded English students to toss themselves off over their indignation while losing sight of what is important: the written word, an end in itself.

I don’t care whether you’ve written a poem about an ode to God, George Herbert style, or a story about slapping your glistening cock over some come-guzzler’s lust-stricken face: if it gets the job done, in its genre, I see no viable reason to get stuffy about it.

Unfortunately, under the new SUSU Scribblers rules, erotica has been relegated to the ‘crudest’ of literary forms. The bitching, of course, was virulent; the group came to a standstill while administrators and members alike pointed fingers and threw insults.

It was more than a spot of harmless parliamentary jesting, and if the group really wishes to become the come-to SUSU writing spot, the Scribbler administrators had better blow off some steam by joining Muay Thai and letting their maturity levels settle once again.

Will the group ever recover from its rocky road to SUSU affiliation? There are no clear signs the upsets have ceased just yet, but if SUSU Scribblers want to maintain their integrity – or whatever they have left of it – then the only way they can hold the fort while maintaining popularity is by letting people write what the want and post what they want without recourse to stuffiness.

I have refused to submit my identity in the publication of this article: as Benjamin Disraeli once said, “You know who the critics are? The men who have failed in literature and art.” And I fear these critics will be after the Tab, wielding their keyboards like hammers and pitchforks in a senseless frenzy after reading this article instead of writing some cracking poems or stories. Rumours are Soton Tab web security has stepped up its game as this gets published, to prevent a Scribbler denial-of-service attack in response to a member speaking out of place.

I am, of course, being disingenuous and cheeky, but I’ve learnt from life that sex, censorship and inner party politics even in student circles are controversies that can only be met and tackled with jest and good humour, something everyone should remind themselves of.