Weird Tales Controversy

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by sullivan_riyria, Aug 21, 2012.

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  1. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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  2. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    All that needs to be said, IMHO, is that the editor responsible for this mess is the same editor who originally published a particularly vile work by the name of Hamlet's Father in an anthology.

    So, as I see it, any sort of apology from them (i.e. the editor) will be absolutely meaningless.
     
  3. Alchemist

    Alchemist Registered User

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    Not having read Foyt's book, or even the first chapter that was posted on Weird Tales, I don't feel qualified to form an opinion on whether or not it is racist. Nor does a cursory glance at some of the offending components mentioned in the various blog posts give me a strong sense one way or another.

    That said, I am a bit leery about the opinions of those that do feel qualified without having read it, or that instantly jump on the witch-hunting bandwagon. The other side of this is that the internet has a long history of quick trigger fingers and over-reactivity, especially when it comes to touchy subjects like racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. Sometimes people look for things to be offended by and see what they want to see. I'm not saying that's happening with this little debacle, but I do wonder.

    Racism sucks, no doubt about it. But being falsely accused of racism also sucks. As I said, I don't feel qualified (that is, knowledgeable) enough to say whether Foyt or the folks at Weird Tales are racist, but I find it worrisome how quickly people jump to accusations of racism. That's a pretty heavy stigma to carry.
     
  4. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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    Very well stated and reasoned response.
     
  5. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    It is a reasoned response, but I think it misses the point.

    We have authors of colour condemning this as racist. That alone should be proof that something is amiss with this piece. If you have these authors standing up and saying it's racist, it's not a small thing they're doing. They're making serious complaints about the content of this piece, and they need to be taken seriously.

    Many of us on this site are white, and as such we don't have much room to really say "oh, it's not racist" or "but what if it isn't racist?" - it's offended people of colour, and that alone is proof enough that it's a piece with racist connotations at the very least.
     
  6. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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    I think we each took Alchemist's view differently. From what I saw he/she didn't take a position one way or the other and merely said that because they had not read the book they couldn't respond either way.

    If I were a "betting man" I would say that it probably is raciest as I trust the opinions of N.K. and others, but to say definitively would be wrong without seeing with my own eyes the work in its entirety...but I have no interest in putting money in this author's pocket because "it doesn't look good" from the limited exposure I have.

    I'm not saying it is the case here, but there have been cases where someone, even a respected someone, has made a claim of racism based on partial information, or their own perspective, and all Alchemist was saying (and I agree) is that we each should be careful about forming a mob especially if you, or others haven't read the complete work.
     
  7. Lord Pendragon

    Lord Pendragon Registered User

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    I absolutely disagree. (Disclosure: I am an Asian.) I had an Asian acquaintance go off once on how racist the Disney movie Mulan is.

    Mulan for god's sake.

    Just because a minority says something is racist absolutely does not mean it must be so.

    Sorry, I'll let you guys get back to talking about this story I haven't read, but I had to respond to that one bit. It drives me nuts when people make that argument. :eek:
     
  8. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    That's certainly true and it's a good point...

    But I don't think you need - in circumstances like these - to read the whole thing to realise the views are not, um, right. What reading it fully would do is really show how bad the problem is.

    And I sit partially corrected. I, like Michael above, respect the opinion of authors like N.K. Jemesin, even if I don't like her work. And when you have authors like Jim C. Hines - arguably the single most respected voice for things like this, despite being a Straight White Male - weighing in and decrying it, you know there's an issue.
     
  9. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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    We'll have to agree to disagree. There are reasons why jurors are not supposed to discuss the case until all evidence is presented. It may be that things are purposefully portrayed in a certain light for dramatic effect or a twist ending. I've written things to "setup" a certain premise just to yank the rug out from under so I never want to judge anything unless I've personally experienced it in its entirety.

    No matter how respected an individual or individuals...I will use my own eyes/ears/mind to make a determination and not theirs. Do I think they are probably correct....yes...but I will not proxy such determinations no matter what the credentials.
     
  10. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    It may be in some certain circumstances, yes. But not this one.

    That's your choice.

    Way I see it? Other people read this stuff, point out the flaws and that way I don't have to read them. Simples. :D
     
  11. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Moderator note: We do not usually allow discussions about race in this forum or the SF forum, where this conversation more properly belongs since the controversy concerns a science fiction story, as noted in the guidelines, because it is a sensitive topic prone to flame wars. We will sometimes allow it under the following conditions:

    1) Everyone in the discussion is very, very civil to each other.
    2) Everyone follows all directions from moderators with total cooperation and no complaint in the thread.
    3) The subject sticks to how race is handled in fantasy/horror/SF fiction (which can be in relation to the real world, but not drift into a discussion of race in the real world divorced from the fiction.)
    4) No one makes personal attacks about other members, any authors, or in this case, the editors past and present of the magazine.

    We will allow also a discussion of Weird Tales magazine in this particular case and discussion of the particular story involved, and we'll leave the thread here for now. But it will get closed in a heartbeat and if necessary deleted altogether if any member decides to violate the above. Individual posts may also be deleted or edited by staff. Any complaints about other members' posts should be done by PM's to staff, not hashed out in the thread. Good intentions of all members should be assumed in the thread discussions and apologies if someone seems to misunderstand you or be upset would be a really good idea.

    You may now proceed. Carefully and in the spirit of SFFWorld.com.
     
  12. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    It sounds like it could either be a horrible piece of racist propaganda or an author trying to make a point about how awful and stupid racism is by reversing the situation.I'd like to think it's the latter, but I don't know enough about the situation.
     
  13. heretics fork

    heretics fork Curmudgeon

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    I did read the first chapter and it is certainly offensive without context. In the context of the book, who knows, but without that greater context-- ie, how Weird Tales published it-- ugh. Not good. I can see why there is controversy. Whoever the new editor is made a tremendously bad call in this case.

    ETA: Apparently WT did not publish the chapter yet and has backed off of that idea.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  14. kshRox

    kshRox Registered User

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    From what I've read by visiting the links above it appears the author may project racist overtones. However, comments by the author and quotes from the book may be taken out of context. As I haven't actually read the story and don't know the direction or the moral resolution (if any) the author is building towards, I agree with Alchemists comments above.

    I believe the controversy does raise two interesting points though.

    First, the storyline as defined by the controversy does touch upon a topic relevant to American society and culture. Based upon 2012 census information, the current majority in America is trending towards minority status. So while the execution of the book may (or may not) be flawed, the premise of the book is relevant and poses an interesting question. Should (or perhaps the correct term is when) societal roles are reversed how will current minorities as the new majority, treat the current majorities which will be the new minorities? (say that as fast as you can 5 times in a row)

    I absolutely think there are many interesting stories to be told with this premise either literally or in SF/F allegories. Which brings me to my second point. As an aspiring author, censorship, for whatever reason, no matter how morally justified it may seem, always makes me a little uneasy.

    Although Ray Bradbury denied Fahrenheit 451 was about censorship it certainly dances all around and frankly treads right through this subject matter. Ironically Fahrenheit 451 itself is a member of the ALA (American Library Association) top 100 banned books. So because we don’t like a book, should we band together in groups to prevent a book from being available to the general public?

    Arguably, this is what is happening in this controversy. An influential group is pressuring a channel for new literature to access the general public to discriminate against topics they do not like. <- sounds rather elitist or even a bit fascist when phrased in these terms. Not saying fascist by strict definition of political systems, but definitely leaning towards authoritarian.

    The problem with authoritarian controls, is control like all power tends to become institutionalized over time. Contrary to the popular ideology I was taught in my Political Science and Business Ethics classes, I was taught in my Critical Thinking class it is a fallacy to attribute human characteristics to a non-human entity such as an institution. The leadership within institutions may change meaning how the power designated to the institution is wielded may change.

    If it were not so sad and more than a little scary, it would be hilarious how Democrats opposed Republicans passing the Patriot Act and the reversal in positions and parties when Democrats extended the Patriot Act.

    Freedom of speech was not specified in the First Amendment to protect benign speech. Nobody cares about stifling small talk or stipulatory rhetoric. It is specifically instituted (imho) to safeguard against speech that voices a challenge to accepted norms and/or conventions. The problem is when we start picking and choosing what accepted norms and/or conventions can be challenged and which can’t – we’ve already lost.

    Lots of subject matter here for stories I would think!
     
  15. ian_sales

    ian_sales Registered User

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    Er, no. Being accused of being racist, falsely or otherwise, in no way compares to being subjected to racism.

    And for those of you happy to sit on the fence regarding Saving the Pearl - read the first chapter of the book, it's available free online (so why were Weird Tales paying to publish it anyway?); watch the promotional video with blackface in it; read the quotes people have posted, read the synopsis... The book is quite blatantly racist and deserves every criticism thrown at it.

    I should also point out that Kaye's now-deleted post blamed the complaints of racism against the book on poor reading skills, and categorically stated that if people couldn't see it was anti-racist it was because they lacked the necessary analytical skills. Which is wrong, insulting, and asinine.
     
  16. Mister

    Mister Registered User

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    There's more than one standpoint from which to oppose racism.

    For instance, there's a standpoint that says racism is a bad thing. It says that a racist is someone who believes there's a difference between people of different races. From this standpoint, the "right" way to act is to behave in a colorblind manner, to treat everyone the same, and to act as if race doesn't exist.

    This standpoint is opposed to racism, but I don't think it's a good approach to the issues of race and racism.

    Suppose you watch a movie where all the black men are horny thugs and all the white people are noble. The movie makes you uncomfortable. According to that approach, you're a racist. Not the filmmakers, but the person who noticed the racism. Because you needed to notice the race of the actors in order to observe that pattern, and being non-racist means acting as if race doesn't exist.

    It's a confused standpoint that boils down to "whoever smelt it, dealt it." It places most of the blame for racism upon minority races, who keep on talking about race, when they (according to this jumble of ideas) really ought to just assimilate already and start acting "post-racial."

    Someone who believed this would genuinely be opposed to overt, ugly manifestations of racism, like burning crosses, school segregation, back-of-the-bus, etc. But they'd support subtle, systemic forms of racism. If you challenge the more pervasive forms of racism, the colorblind would call you a racist.

    And on a completely unrelated note, one can read Victoria Foyt's defense of her book, here: http://www.savethepearls.com/judging-a-book-by-its-cover-gives-birth-to-racism/
     
  17. ian_sales

    ian_sales Registered User

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    Studies have shown that people who thought themselves "colourblind" are more racist than those who don't (who aren't racists, of course). Race relations is a minefield and it's easy to put a foot wrong. Or many feet. I don't for a moment believe Foyt intended her book to be racist - the fact that it is, I think, is down to her cluelessness. But she's not helping matters with her continual protestations. People more clued in to the topic than she is have pointed out problems with the book, it's past time she started listening to them...
     
  18. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    We're starting to drift a little into the ideologies of combating racism, which is not the thread topic, so let's move back to Weird Tales and the fiction, please.

    Flipping (having blacks or women or another minority group be dominant in an imagined society over the in real life majority in power group,) has been a long time SF approach, occasionally borrowed for fantasy fiction. Ursula Le Guin has probably used it most successfully and famously within her Hainish universe. It doesn't have much to do with "weird fiction" stories, however. The objections to Foyt's book have not been about the flipping premise entirely, since it's not a new idea, but about her depictions of the black characters and the white characters in crude stereotypes that are not flips of each other, but felt to be reiterations of prejudicial beliefs about black people (and for that matter, about white people.) Many people regard the book as ill thought out.

    That being said, there's no call for burning or repressing the book from the author having self-published it going on. Nobody particularly cared that she published it. The controversy is that Weird Tales magazine, a magazine with one of the older histories of speculative magazines, and a magazine that had been considered to have become really brilliant under the direction of editor Anne Vandermeer for presenting multiple kinds of voices, winning a Hugo recently, has now in its new launch under a new editor (Vandermeer forced to step down to be a consulting editor,) decided to excerpt the first chapter of this book -- without a lot of context as has been noted, although many think the context is even more problematic -- and associate this work with Weird Tales in a justifying editorial. It's further complicated because of this new editor's publishing history with reference to controversial projects.

    Vandermeer had apparently advised this editor and the financial backer of the magazine not to publish the piece, that it would be disastrous. She has now resigned as consulting editor over this incident. The financial backer has pulled the story, pulled the editor's column about the inclusion of the story, and issued an apology, but the damage has been done. A lot of SFFH authors don't like this book, as you can see from some of these links, and are unlikely to want to publish with Weird Tales further, meaning that the magazine will lose rising young authors and revenue.

    I believe that Weird Tales is likely to survive this controversy, especially if this editor steps down, as may be very likely. But it essentially trashed the work that's gone into the magazine for the last five years. And even beyond the issue of the story's approach and controversial content, as a simple post-apocalyptic SF story, it was not the sort of story that had any interest for Weird Tales' readers in the first place. So it has definitely driven away readers from the Weird Tales brand, at least in the short term, which can be a huge problem for magazines these days.

    Essentially, in the SFFH publishing community, nobody cares very much about this novel, although a number of them have read the novel. The grief is over Weird Tales and that one of the leading SFFH magazines we have left, a very distinctive magazine, has essentially hung a sign on the door telling non-white SFFH authors and those who support them that they aren't welcome anymore. That was, it is understood, not necessarily the immediate intent of the editorial staff, but that is the result.
     
  19. ian_sales

    ian_sales Registered User

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  20. suciul

    suciul Read interesting books

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    This is why I think that many times it is better to ignore stuff than to oppose it (unless it is something illegal or physically abusive); now the author of this trash (based on the free chapter, i tend to agree with the commenters that wonder not at the obvious and overt racism but at how people want to read such junk) gets free publicity, most likely tons more sales and all that rather than quietly fading away into deserved obscurity.

    As for Weird tales my attitude is simple - their magazine and their money, their choices; do not like it, stop buying it, submitting to it, supporting it in any way, get your own magazine going etc, but they were planning to do nothing illegal excerpting that book
     
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