Are we making any progress yet? (On Weird Tales, Marvin Kaye, and the whole Save the Pearls debacle).

This recent situation just has me seething.

If you’ve managed to make it to August 2012 without ever hearing the title Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls!  before this, or the resultant backlash against Victoria Foyt’s “thoroughly non-racist book” because of the heaps and heaps of racism it contains (and misogyny, but that’s another post), here are a few blog posts about it: from Foz Meadows, from NK Jemisin, from Inverarity, from acrackedmoon.
Note: potentially triggering imagery in the Inverarity post, because one of the major marketing tools for this book were a number of videos portraying a blonde, blue-eyed white woman wearing blackface and talking about how “they” (black people) are trying to kill her. I am not kidding. And this is supposed to be a book for teenagers about racial tolerance.

Now, after the book had been tossed around the internet a bit and thoroughly mocked and disparaged and raged at by nearly everyone who touched it, we all thought we’d heard the last of it. Not so. Just the other day, we got this post on Weird Tales magazine’s blog, from its new editor Marvin Kaye. It talks about Kaye’s commitment to serializing Save the Pearls in Weird Tales (despite it falling well outside the typical genre purview of the magazine) and accuses all detractors of the novel of mean-spiritedness and lacking “sufficient wit, wisdom and depth of literary analysis” to appreciate the racial dynamics presented in the book.

As your can see in the comments on that cached post, the community was not amused. There was backlash.
The publisher of WT, John Harlacher, eventually deleted the original blog post by Kaye and replaced it with this apology and retraction, claiming that the two of them had been ignorant of the offensive marketing materials and were no longer going to be publishing the book. To which the lot of us responded, “you didn’t think the book was racist enough by itself?”.
Jeff Vandermeer also had this to say about the mess, which throws rather a bit of doubt on the competency of the new WT staff or the truth of Harlacher’s statement. For the record, Ann Vandermeer is wonderful and had this never happened I was planning on letting my WT subscription lapse anyway, due to her absence.

In any case, pissed off by the whole debacle and unimpressed by Harlacher’s apology, I wrote this:

Hi there,

About a year and a half ago (I think, for some reason I’m unable to log into my account at wildsidemagazines, the site does not recognize my email address) I paid for a subscription to Weird Tales, as well as a number of its back issues.
At the time, the magazine had won awards for its editorial prowess on the part of Ann Vandermeer, and was publishing some truly daring and mind-bending prose.
Since then, it’s been purchased by Marvin Kaye, who has made some incredibly questionable editorial choices and written some extremely inflammatory things. In short, I do not believe this is the magazine I originally subscribed to in anything but name.
I’m not certain how many more issues are left in my subscription, if any, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d either cancel it or commute my subscription to a different magazine. If canceling it is all that can be done, that’s fine. I don’t really need to get my money back from you. I just don’t want to own anything edited by the man who first published Orson Scott Card’s gallingly homophobic novella “Hamlet’s Father”, or who would go out of his way to stand behind Victoria Foyt’s appalling racist Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls.
 
(Here’s where I put my address and personal info, in hopes that they could use it to find my account and cancel my subscription).
Please advise me as to my options.
Many thanks,
Lisa


To which I was expecting a polite email expressing regrets from one of the WT interns or assistant editors, followed by instructions on how to never receive another issue of WT again ever.


Instead, I received this:


Your wishes will be respected; I believe the publisher will handle that, I regret your decision, and can only say that after reading the book, I found it a powerful attack on racism, just the opposite from the charges leveled at it. However, I only recently saw the marketing of this book, and find it in terrible taste; had I seen it, I would not have read the book. As it is, we have decided not to publish the story.

Regarding Scott Card’s story, I did not see any homophobia in it, or I would have objected, but for the record, I did not want to buy anything from him; the publisher, Tor Books, made it clear that if I did not include his story, they would not publish the book at all.

MK

When Harlacher posted his original apology, he insisted that Kaye was currently traveling and therefor unable to apologize for himself. He implied that once Kaye was no longer traveling, he would do so. Kaye has not yet made a public statement.
Kaye has instead opted to email individuals privately in order to state his case. Rather than inviting a respectful open debate in a public forum, he is trying to defend himself piecemeal through our private accounts. This is, in my view and as I’ve said repeatedly, an incredibly slimy and disingenuous tactic.


In addition to his continuing not to see the racism in StP, he also takes a moment to defend unrepentant homophobe (and NOM board member) Orson Scott Card’s novella “Hamlet’s Father” from accusations of homophobia. Again: these things have been discussed at length by members of the minorities concerned as well as their allies. These facts are not in any manner up for debate.


Marvin Kaye, it’s time for you to apologize. And it’s time for you to shut up and listen.


I expect far better from leaders in the SFF community.
Clearly Weird Tales is no longer the leader it once was.


Edit: I wanted to add a link to Debbie Reese’s article about the way in which indigenous peoples are represented as infantile and brutish in StP. Since her excerpts come largely from the latter half of the book, I can only assume this is what Kaye is referring to when he insists that the book redeems itself in its latter chapters.


I also want to mention that this isn’t the first counter-backlash over this book: Victoria Foyt herself has been making some very offensive statements in response to her critics as well.


Advertisements