Wicked Pretty Things and the Erasure of LGBTQ Characters


Thanks to Patrick Rothfuss for spreading the word about this! =)

This from Jim C. Hines website:

Last night, my six-year-old and I had a chat. I don’t remember how it came up, but he was talking about people getting married, and how boys have to marry girls. I pointed out that this wasn’t necessarily so, that in some states and many countries, boys could marry boys and girls could marry girls.

Being six, he laughed. “That’s silly. How would they have babies?”

It’s not the first time we’ve had a talk like this. I understand where his confusion comes from. Pretty much every cartoon on TV has male/female relationships only. Every movie he watches, every book he brings home from school… Any nonheterosexual relationship is simply erased.

Last month, Jessica Verday withdrew her story from the Wicked Pretty Things anthology after receiving a note from the editor which stated that her story “would have to be published as a male/female story because a male/male story would not be acceptable to the publishers.”

Wicked Pretty Things is an anthology of dark fairy romance … but apparently editor Trisha Telep assumed that meant straight romance only, going with the default erasure of any “nontraditional” relationships.

Verday later posted a response in which Telep apologized for causing offense, and said in part, “I sincerely regret the sequence of events which has led to Jessica Verday’s story ‘Flesh Which Is Not Flesh’ being excluded from the forthcoming anthology Wicked Pretty Things. This has been the result of a misunderstanding on my part which is entirely regrettable … I fully support LGBTQ issues.”

I understand and believe that Telep meant no harm. That it was a mistake, not intended to be hurtful. But it was hurtful.

Other authors such as Seanan McGuire, Lisa Mantchev, Lesley Livingston, and Karen Mahoney have pulled their stories from the anthology. Melissa Marr asked that her name not be used to promote the project (she had provided a cover blurb Correction: they were apparently describing the anthology as including stories with a “Melissa Marr-ish slant.”) Ann Aguirre pulled her story from another of Telep’s projects.

Running Press responded in an article titled The Misinformation Age, saying, “Third-party error and miscommunication went viral and led to the spread of untrue accusations of intolerance and censorship.”

Where exactly are these untrue accusations? I’m not aware of any lies in Verday’s post, or in the posts by the other authors involved. Is intolerance an inappropriate word to describe an editor who says “No gay love allowed,” even if it was a misunderstanding?

More importantly, why was this an issue to begin with? The publisher may have disavowed responsibility for Telep’s actions, but why did Telep immediately assume that a story in which two male characters were in love would be unacceptable?

Pulling a story from an anthology is scary. You risk alienating editor and publisher both, not to mention turning down a paycheck. You worry about appearing unprofessional. And you wonder if you’ll find another home for the story you worked so hard on…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I’d like to extend an offer to any author who pulled his or her story from one of Telep’s projects as a result of this incident.

1- If you have not already found a home for your withdrawn story, I would be happy to read it.
2- If I like the story (and knowing most of the authors involved, I suspect I will), I’ll offer $100 up front to publish it here on my blog.
3- Each story will include a donations link. Once the initial $100 has been covered, further donations will be split 50/50. Half will be paid to the author, and the other half will be donated to a LGBTQ-friendly cause.
4- If I publish multiple stories, I will look into putting together an e-book collection of those stories, with profits again being split between the authors and a LGBTQ-friendly cause.

I get about 2000 unique readers each day, which is comparable to (or in some cases better than) the sales for a number of the anthologies out there. That said, I’ll certainly understand if the authors choose to look elsewhere. It sounds like Verday has already found another home for her story, which is great. My offer is not time-limited.

I am not trying to poach authors from Running Press. However, I do want to support and thank those authors who’ve chosen to publicly state that the erasure of non-straight characters and relationships is not okay. One way I can do that is by offering a home for those stories.
----------------

Great initiative!

28 commentaires:

Ludwig said...

Just wanted to say: Great idea, Pat!

Anonymous said...

The little boy is right, it is silly but an unfortunate reality that gay relations are considered normal(the functions of reproductive organs prove it so)which is not to say that tolerating them is a bad thing but the promotion of it as a lifestyle choice or normal alternative is(as opposed to someone who is born gay and can't really choose)

Patrick said...

Hmmm, it's not my idea...

It's Hines'. =)

Rebecca said...

I look forward to the stories.

I'm really sad to hear about the censure. I've always thought that speculative fiction has been more tolerant than average.

Anonymous said...

Was very pleasing to read about Jim Hines' sane, calm attitude about relationships and the irrelevance of gender. Thanks for the link, Pat. Have now passed it on to mates.

Cheers,

/Shevchyk

Elfy said...

Glad this is happening. I first read about it on Seanan McGuire's LJ and I could not believe that this sort of thing still goes on. It's censorship pure and simple and it's nasty. I fully support the authors who removed their work and their names from this particular collection.

Scooter said...

Pat,

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is not okay, but I don't think the discussion with a six-year old has much to do with it. Just because... you know, you can't know about everything when you're only six (not that he should not know, but I don't see it as a serious issue if he doesn't).

machinery said...

hines' attitude was not normal !
children should not be indoctrinated like this.

Anonymous said...

Good on you, Pat. Way to use your clout, Sir.

amysrevenge said...

It's a tricky problem to deal with. Optimally you don't want to resort to a LBGetc-only segregated ghetto collection, what you really want is LBGetc stories to be included in any old collection without comment.

Kel said...

Hines' attitude was commendable!
Children should be educated like this.

machinery said...

kel - maybe i just think that he wrote this to tell EVERYONE that he said this.
i think he is a fake,
i can't stand guys like that.

Jens said...

@ amysrevenge:
I don't see it as that tricky. I agree that a monothematic LSGTQ collection might not be what the publisher is looking for.
But then, if too many (or all) writers submitted LSGT fiction, they could tell the third or fourth writer: "Look, we've already got two / three LSGT pieces and want to keep the collection balanced as to keep it accessable to the targeted readership." Or something along the lines.

That wouldn't be discriminating.
In fact, you could substitute "LSGT" which pretty much any other concept:
Five writers submitting locked room mysteries for a fantasy collection? Sorry, too much.
Four stories with telepathic heroes? Sorry, need more variation.

But apparently, ONE story was already one too many, that was the problem! ;-)


@ Anonymous #1 / machinery:
How is it promotion of homosexuality or indoctrination to point out that "in some states and many countries, boys [can] marry boys and girls [can] marry girls"?
Pardon me, that is education! It's a fact that this is the case.
Presenting the possibility of a very concept is not necessarily promotion.
Hines didn't say that "boys SHOULD marry boys and girls SHOULD marry girls", now, that would be promotion - just as much, by the way, as saying "boys SHOULD NOT marry boys [...]", this would also be promotion, of a strictly heterosexual lifestyle, this time.

I firmly believe that you cannot "make" a person homosexual - or heterosexual - by suggesting the respective lifestyle.
What you CAN do (and sadly has been done in the past) is make the person oppress their sexuality for society's sake, or rather for sake of not having social disadvantages or being persecuted.

I am living in Germany where we've had high profile politicians being openly gay (Berlin's, the capital and a province of its own, mayor; the current Foreign Minister and vice-chancellor) as well as other VIPs (one of the best host of a policital talk show and a successful comedienne are openly lesbian). But me -lo and behold!- despite being obviously "indoctrinated" am a perfectly "normal" man. Strange, isn't it?

C'mon, does anyone seriously think that you can make someone gay or straight by informing them of an alternative lifestyle?
Anonymous / machine, judging by what you write I guess you're both straight. Could anyone make you change your gender preferences simply by pointing out the possibility?
I guess not.

TLW2-NR said...

Great idea and response. The realm of fairy (no pun intended) has always struck me as being multi gendered and oriented. The intolerance shown for an adult fantasy audience is rather bizzare. It also made me think of a pervasive denial on the lack of real American Indian themes and characters in fantasy. I don't know how many stories I have read that are set in North America but involve interactions with fairies and other european creatures of myth and legend. I guess the colonization totally wiped out all the Indigenous creatures of myth and legend. As an American Indian I find it rather irritating. Although seemingly off topic, the reality is that while looking at intolerance and such, it lurks in more then the obvious and overt actions. More dialogue on these kinds of issues needs to happen. Anyways, more power to those standing up on this issue.

Anonymous said...

'Someone who is born gay and can't really choose' said anon #1 - okay that's me, a gay man - but then anon goes on about gay being a lifestyle choice for others. Really? Who are these people who woke up one morning and chose to be gay? Why did they do it? What were they before their Great Decision?
And as for the heterosexuals of the world, when did you choose to be straight? 10? 11? 12? Adolescence? Late teen years? The phrase lifestyle choice is completely absurd and meaningless and I wish people would stop using it. - Ian

PS Would love to see more stories about Native Americans, even gay ones!

Mike said...

I honestly don't see any issue with this. LBGT stories likely have a significantly different audience than straight romance stories.

In my opinion, it'd be the equivalent of putting a Science Fiction story into an Epic Fantasy collection. No one would be offended if the editor turned down the Science Fiction story, would they?

It isn't censorship to limit a story collection to a particular genre.

Anonymous said...

Ok, and why should a publisher be forced to publish anything they do not want to publish? I understand that this case wasn't about that in the end, but the question remains.
I personally would not want to read anything on that subject and would like to know that any book from a certain publisher would not contain anything I find offensive. What about their and my rights?
On the related note - thanks for the reviews Pat, thanks to them I have found several books worth reading and some that needed to be avoided. :)

Galeani

Aaron said...

silly... readers do not care who you screw as long as the story is good.

Roland said...

Sexuality is not a genre to be separated into different groups. Homosexuals read as much as heterosexuals, and they are NOT exclusive in their reading preferences. They do NOT read ONLY fiction with gay characters. Interestingly enough though, straight people (that is, straight MALES) find it almost offensive when faced with the prospect of reading a story with gay characters. Double standards much?

And the problem with separating stories with gay characters in a separate section is so obvious I don't even think it needs pointing out. Hint - it's the same problem every art form has when it gets ghettoized.

Mike said...

@Roland

Being in a separate genre has nothing to do with how much certain groups of people read. Nothing is stopping anyone from reading from as many genres as they'd like.

Your mention of double standards doesn't seem to apply here. You said straight men have one dis-preference that no one else has. That isn't double standards, it's just wrong. I'd agree that many straight men may not like to read about LGBT relationships, but I'm sure there are people in the opposite situation as well.

Again, to me, it's no different than, say, Historical Fiction vs Epic Fantasy. I'm certainly not offended by Historical Fiction, it's just not something I enjoy reading.

A publisher shouldn't be forced to include, or condemned for not including, a Historical Fiction story in an Epic Fantasy collection. It just doesn't match their target audience.

If they decide to target an audience that likes both, then obviously it's in their best interests to include both, but you can't force people to read a genre they aren't interested in because you think it's wrong that they aren't interested in that genre.

If a publisher was to say, "We won't print any books with LGBT romance because it's wrong," then I would agree that they deserve to be chastised for that. If they make a collection of straight romance short stories, specifically targeting the audience that enjoys that genre, then there's no issue. Any person looking for a book not in that genre can read a different book.

Roland said...

The comparison is just plain wrong. Historical fiction and epic fantasy are two different genres. They are read by people with different *interests*. Sexuality, unless made a point of, is NOT a matter of *interest*. If you have a story about a vampire detective in alternate reality contemporary New York where vampires and werewolves fight for dominance, but the detective just so happen to prefer... biting... other guys, the story is no less urban fantasy for that detail, unless it is a major point of the story. Why the hell would it not be included in an urban fantasy anthology?

My point is sexuality has nothing to do with genre distinctions and I find the comparison inadequate. If we're doing that, I suggest we also remove the fantasy with female protagonists into separate genre section. And then the one with black protagonists... Oh wait...

You got me?

Mike said...

For your first example, it probably could be included in a urban fantasy anthology.

This anthology is a Romance anthology. The stories are mainly focused on romance. As much as you'd like to deny it, people have a preference to the romance they would like to read. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with bigotry.

If they were trying to collect a straight romance anthology, then a LGBT romance story doesn't fit with the theme and just doesn't match the intended audience.

The difference comes down to how relevant the details of the romance are to the story and the anthology. If it's just an urban fantasy anthology, then all the better that the story is a bit different. If it's a romance anthology that is targeted towards invoking feelings that result from experiencing a straight relationship, then it just obviously doesn't fit.

With respect to your comparison to race, there are sub-genres of African-American literature, etc. Again, it depends on how central a culture is to the main focus of the book. If the story is an urban fantasy with a Black male lead, then it would just be urban fantasy. If it's urban fantasy centered around African-American culture, then it might be considered both.

If a publisher was writing an anthology about African-American urban fantasy (urban fantasy with strong ties to African-American culture) would you be upset if they rejected a story about an urban fantasy about Chinese culture?

You wouldn't, because it doesn't fit the theme.

Roland said...

If romance is the main theme, then I can't see why a romance story was rejected. Apparently the "straight" requirement wasn't explicitly stated. As for the rest, you're repeating what I said.

Anonymous said...

Pat's pretty gay.

Leaf said...

I'm 100% with Mike on this one.

Straight people prefer straight people romance.

Gay men prefer gay man romance.

Gay women prefer gay woman romance.

If your target audience is straight romance readers, which type of stories would you want to buy? C'mon, this ain't brain surgery... the issue is being deliberately confused with a whole lot of unrelated emotion about the state of equality in the world.

Romance is the only theme/genre where seuxal-orientation based segregation makes sense, but even so... if you are in the business to make money and you feel you will make less money because your audience will shrink if you include a certain type of content, then you have every right to choose not to spend YOUR money publishing it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so much ignorance and homophobia in this post.

Straight romance is not a genre. Romance is. And Romance as a genre can involve different sexualities, even if the majority is of the heterosexual kind because that's what society has set as the default being the majority. The anthology had no requirements whatsoever aside from word count and a theme. Refusing a story that met those two requirements because it contained a gay romance was not acceptable because nowhere did it say it accepted only heterosexual characters.

Also, generalizations are idiotic. All straight people don't only love straight romances. I am a straight woman who doesn't really enjoy all that much romance (I like my plot and my adventure) but who enjoys reading about men getting it on with each other.

Kadomi said...

Very interesting post. I am a gay woman living in a country where it's a lot easier to be out about this, apparently. I applaud Jim Hines' initiative. Will have to spread the word.