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Thread: Weird Tales Controversy
August 21st, 2012, 08:25 AM #1
Weird Tales Controversy
I'm not sure how many people have been following this, but I found it interesting:
Weird Tales Magazine faces a boycott after endorsing a “thoroughly non-racist book”
Weird Tales Goes Back in Time
Racism, Revealing Eden and STGRB
Wierd Tales Response
Jim C. Hines: Thoroughly Nonracist Nonsense
N.K. Jemisin: This is how you destroy something beautiful.
Jeff VanderMeer: Weird Tales, Ann VanderMeer, and Utter Stupidity
EDIT: Link to Guardian Article
EDIT: Added the author's response.
Last edited by sullivan_riyria; August 22nd, 2012 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Added additonal links
August 21st, 2012, 11:40 AM #2
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.
August 21st, 2012, 02:31 PM #3
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.
August 21st, 2012, 02:50 PM #4
August 21st, 2012, 03:44 PM #5
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.
August 21st, 2012, 03:59 PM #6
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.
August 21st, 2012, 04:27 PM #7
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.
August 21st, 2012, 04:20 PM #8
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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.
August 22nd, 2012, 03:38 AM #9
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.
August 22nd, 2012, 04:41 AM #10
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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...rth-to-racism/
August 22nd, 2012, 04:52 AM #11
August 22nd, 2012, 10:28 AM #12
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.
August 22nd, 2012, 03:13 PM #13
Thanks, Michael - you represented my view quite accurately.
That said, being falsely accused of something can be a very painful experience, especially when it is something like racism.
But even more problematic is the implication that there is a, ahem, black and white definition to racism and no interpretation involved. It may be that you and I will read something and one find it offensive (or racist) and the other not. Does that make it racist or not? This is not to say that there aren't things that we can collectively, by and large, agree on as "blatantly racist" but that there are gray areas in-between and that we can never separate interpretation and usage from the equation.
With works of art (including literature) the usage is everything. For example, portraying a character wearing black-face doesn't make the book, and thus the author, inherently racist. It depends upon how they are using that trope, and how consciously they are employing it.
(This is not to say that it isn't problematic to use such tropes, but that I wouldn't not assign inherent or blatant racism to them).
August 22nd, 2012, 03:21 PM #14
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To all of which, even the not-having-read-the-book, I simply say, one can read her blog entry and reach one's own conclusion as to whether this is someone who has the insight to write profoundly about race.
It may not be wise to judge a book by its cover, but in most cases, you can judge a book by its author.
Edited to add: this is in reply to Alchemist.
August 22nd, 2012, 03:37 PM #15
As to whether she "has the insight to write profound about race" or not, I'm not sure how one can make a judgment from her blog post (we're talking about this, right?).