Ann Vandermeer, Author Branding, author marketing, Ethics & Journalism, Fantasy, fantasy fiction, Novel Writing, publishing, Roberta Trahan, SAve the Pearls, Social Responsibility, Victoria Foyt, Weird Tales, Writing, writing advice
It’s in my programming to keep my eye on trending topics, as both a longtime marketing professional, and as an author in the new publishing era. Once or twice a week I try to catch up with all my newsfeeds and you know, stay informed. Often I learn interesting things or am pleasantly entertained, sometimes I am moved or inspired, occasionally I am shocked, and once in a while I am horrified.
I never ever fan a firestorm – after all, they tend to rage on quite furiously all on their own. And, frankly, as a former publicist I know all too well how quickly one can regret speaking out in a moment of passion, or stepping in line with an angry mob. Even when the outrage is justified, it’s generally just a bad idea to enter the fray. It’s unprofessional and can do your career more harm than good.
However, a recent dust-up in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy corner of the publishing universe caught my attention this week. One rubber-neck to glance at the cause of the crash and I haven’t been able to tear myself away since. The carnage is just too mind-searingly mesmerizing. And all because of a lack of maturity, sense of basic social responsibility, and professional judgment.
In this case one giant step in a pile of shee-it was followed by another even more enormous stomp, and the stink may never go away. I shake my head in utter dismay, because the absolute idiocy of this situation has reached gargantuan proportions, and it just makes me so sad – as an author, as a career publishing professional, as a citizen of the world.
This particular firestorm centers on SAVE THE PEARLS, a novel by Victoria Foyt – a semi-celebrity-turned-author who frankly, ought to have known better. If you aren’t already aware of the controversy surrounding this book, I suggest you go Google it and spend some time getting up to speed on one of the most emotionally charged discussions of the year. I refuse to link to anything related to this book (other than the message from the publisher of Weird Tales below) as my own personal statement. I sincerely hope that you will not choose to further line the author’s pockets by purchasing the book.
I suggest this not because of any critical assessment of her work, but rather as an expression of my constitutionally supported right to declare my disgust. That this book came into existence is yet another indicator of our fractured culture and pokes at an already seriously wounded society, all in the name of challenging racial stereotypes. And before you ask, yes, I read the book – or at least as much of it as I could stomach. Sigh.
Ms. Foyt has made public statements in justification of her work and her intent – which, in my opinion, have only further illustrated her naiveté (at best) or her complete lack of understanding of anything outside of her own perceptions. I will make this one personal statement because I feel honor bound to do so – as a white woman married to a man of color with children of mixed racial heritage, I am deeply offended by what Ms. Foyt espouses to be her personal manifesto against racism.
However, as a classically trained journalist and writer who has spent decades honoring the professional ethics and standards of the trade, and a passionate defender of Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech — sacred tenets which are all too often invoked in defense of irresponsible behavior — I support her right to publish it. I also fully support the independent publishers who frequently make way for voices who might otherwise not be heard. Everyone deserves the opportunity to speak their mind. I just don’t have to listen.
And so we come to the huge fiery pile-up on the Internet that has had me gawking at bloody wreckage all week. Sadly, one of the victims may not survive. Ms. Foyt will recover, I suspect, though I hope she will look twice before she enters traffic again. However, the long-standing and iconic Sci-Fi/Fantasy publication who took an ill-advised editorial stand in her defense this week will be on life-support for weeks, if not months. They may even have to pull the plug.
I still cannot wrap my mind around it – the scope of the hubris which led to this decision is so incredibly enormous its limits have yet to be found. Under new ownership and management, this once venerable magazine has lost its way – not only in terms of understanding its audience (and the world we currently live in), but also with regard to the most basic standards of the publishing industry. Shame on you, Weird Tales. I won’t regurgitate the whole debacle here, but suffice it to say that the Editor/Owner of the publication threw the magazine’s considerable weight behind Ms. Foyt’s book without properly vetting the material. The publisher has since retracted the original endorsement but the damage runs deep. You can read the Publisher’s Message and the subsequent fall out here: Weird Tales.
My point is this – as writers (and publishers), it is our job to raise awareness, challenge the status quo, instigate debate, explore new ideas, and speak for those who have been shouted down. It is our right, and profound privilege, to raise our voices freely. It is also our unmitigated obligation to do so with a sense of moral and social responsibility and consideration for the impact and potential consequences of our actions. Something Ms. Foyt and the Publisher & Editor of Weird Tales failed to comprehend.
And that is all I have to say about that.