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Author Topic: "Wicked Pretty Things" fiasco, comments?  (Read 4665 times)
Lokabrenna
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« Topic Start: April 02, 2011, 10:41:54 am »

The story so far:

A soon-to-be-published YA anthology of "dark faerie romances" is at the center of quite a bit of controversy. Apparently, author Jessica Verday was asked to change her m/m romance into a m/f one. Here is a snippet of the quote from the editor explaining the decision:

Quote from: Trisha Telep
These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they'd be light on alternative sexuality, as well.

>_< Yeah...

Since then, six authors have pulled their stories from the anthology, two have pulled their stories from future anthologies, a couple refuse to work with the editor ever again, and one has requested that her name be stricken from the blurb on the front of the book.

Here is a link to the blog post that started everything which includes the full quote from the editor: http://jessicaverday.blogspot.com/2011/03/being-gay-is-okay.html

Here's one of the posts that's been keeping track of the controversy (there are others, if you care to look): http://sparkle-project.blogspot.com/2011/03/update-on-wicked-pretty-things.html

My thoughts:

I own one anthology by Telep (The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance), and it's probably my favourite anthology out of the few I own. That said, I don't think I'll be buying any of the many anthologies that have her as an editor. Her comments come across as unprofessional, childish, and pretty darned ignorant. I'd say more, but I'm trying to be nice.

I'm also disappointed with the publisher's response, who seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, but I'm not going to refuse to buy all their books, because there are plenty of good authors who publish with them who don't support all this homophobic nonsense.

I love YA fiction, and I would have bought this anthology in a heartbeat, but I just can't support censorship, or homophobia, or any related prejudices.

Does anyone have anything they'd like to add?
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« Reply #1: April 03, 2011, 06:21:56 am »

Telep appears to be a complete prat.  I'm not impressed by her apology (in the Sparkle Project post), which has several of the earmarks of a fauxpology (it's not as bad as many I've seen, but it still leaves me with the impression that she doesn't fully understand why this was a major screwup, and is apologizing mostly because it's expected rather than because she's genuinely sorry), and the quote from her on Verday's blog is even less impressive (especially the parenthetical remark at the end, which is irrelevant, gratuitous, and reads like a variation on the "I can't be bigoted; some of my best friends are [marginalized group]" pseudo-defense - found on all good social-justice bingo cards).  I'd guess that the "misunderstanding" she mentions in the apology is, to her, misunderstanding what the publishers would find acceptable - but what I see is that all-too-common misconception of non-het orientation being all about !Teh Seks!, which'd be why she imagined that "light on sex" and "light on alternative sexuality" were equivalent.

The publishers... meh.  I kind of expect publishers, any publishers, to have a good bit of "have their cake and eat it" going on; it's gonna be all about the business angles.  I get the impression that they know being queer-positive - or including a token queer-positive story - is a shrewder business choice, especially in YA; while I'd like to see more principle-based positivity from publishers (not just on queer issues but on all social-justice issues), I'm sufficiently satisfied when they simply refrain from principle-based anti-social-justice stances.

(As a social-justice activist who loves YA lit myself, this was right up my alley - thanks for posting it.)

Sunflower
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« Reply #2: April 03, 2011, 11:05:27 pm »

Telep appears to be a complete prat.  I'm not impressed by her apology (in the Sparkle Project post), which has several of the earmarks of a fauxpology (it's not as bad as many I've seen, but it still leaves me with the impression that she doesn't fully understand why this was a major screwup, and is apologizing mostly because it's expected rather than because she's genuinely sorry), and the quote from her on Verday's blog is even less impressive (especially the parenthetical remark at the end, which is irrelevant, gratuitous, and reads like a variation on the "I can't be bigoted; some of my best friends are [marginalized group]" pseudo-defense - found on all good social-justice bingo cards).  I'd guess that the "misunderstanding" she mentions in the apology is, to her, misunderstanding what the publishers would find acceptable - but what I see is that all-too-common misconception of non-het orientation being all about !Teh Seks!, which'd be why she imagined that "light on sex" and "light on alternative sexuality" were equivalent.

That was my impression of her apology as well. I feel like I should say something like: "She should know better!" But, sadly, comments like hers don't surprise me anymore.  What truly baffles me is that she herself has written more explicit same-sex stuff for adults! Unfortunately, there's this perception that acts performed by same-sex couples are 'racier' than when heterosexuals do the exact same thing.

I'd love to see the authors who bailed get together to produce their own anthology.

Quote
(As a social-justice activist who loves YA lit myself, this was right up my alley - thanks for posting it.)

No problem!
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« Reply #3: April 04, 2011, 07:58:19 pm »

What truly baffles me is that she herself has written more explicit same-sex stuff for adults! Unfortunately, there's this perception that acts performed by same-sex couples are 'racier' than when heterosexuals do the exact same thing.
That, yes, and also the idea that young people shouldn't be exposed to the existence of these "racier" things - not just that YA lit should avoid being graphic/explicit about sexuality, but that some sorts of sexuality are inherently out of bounds.  Well, that any mention whatsoever of them is ipso facto "graphic", which circles right back to what you said, but it gets intertwined with "protecting" young people from the trauma of the non-normative Roll Eyes.

IMO, what's really being "protected" here is adults' perception of non-adults as "innocent beings" (I blame the Victorians Cheesy).  And in the name of preserving adult illusions, the many, many young people whose sexuality/sexual identity/gender identity is in some or another way non-normative are ill-served.

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« Reply #4: April 05, 2011, 11:19:57 am »


Ah, but Sunflower, if no-one speaks about it, it just won't happen, y'a know. Wink
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« Reply #5: April 05, 2011, 03:49:03 pm »

Does anyone have anything they'd like to add?

This really whacks a nerve. This has happened so often in the past--where positive gay relationships are transformed by a gender swap, or the homosexuality of a sympathetic character is omitted, so as not to ruffle anyone's limited worldview. And the converse too: homosexuality added to characters by lazy storytellers as convenient shorthand for decadent evil.

Bertolucci's film The Last Emperor still sets my teeth on edge because he omitted the emperor's widely acknowledged gayness (no doubt to keep the character "relatable") while grafting on a lurid lesbian overtones between the empress and a Japanese spy to suggest the evil seduction of Chinese royalty by Japan during WWII--an affair apparently concocted out of whole cloth, with no historical basis whatsoever, as far as I can discern.

(You can read about it here: http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Homophobia-of-Italian-Director-Bernardo-Bertolucci-on-Film-and-in-Person)

Crap like that is what jump-started me into gay activism back in my youth.
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« Reply #6: April 05, 2011, 04:13:35 pm »

That, yes, and also the idea that young people shouldn't be exposed to the existence of these "racier" things - not just that YA lit should avoid being graphic/explicit about sexuality, but that some sorts of sexuality are inherently out of bounds.  Well, that any mention whatsoever of them is ipso facto "graphic", which circles right back to what you said, but it gets intertwined with "protecting" young people from the trauma of the non-normative Roll Eyes.

I ran into this like a buzz saw back in my days at Marvel Comics. Because in this country, comic books are considered a juvenile medium (not so much in Europe, and not at all in Japan). So even the mention of "gay" was problematic.

Comic book editors have a fair degree of autonomy, and my boss was a progressive woman--I was her assistant editor at the time--so when the new writer she hired for ALPHA FLIGHT (Sunflower, take note: a comic book about Canadian superheroes!) proposed bringing superhero Northstar out of the closet, we were all cool with it. The character had been suggested as gay with winks and nudges ever since famed comics creator John Byrne invented him, so we all figured it was time to dispense with the dumbness. No big deal.

Several months later, the outing issue is about to go to print, and to promote the comic we've leaked word to the press. I field the first call about it, and after I hang up my boss and I vaguely recall that we're supposed to notify the company PR person whenever we get a press call. So I dutifully trot down to Pam the PR Person's office.

"Hi, Pam, I just wanted to let you know we've started getting calls about ALPHA FLIGHT #106."
"Oh, OK," she says, unconcerned. "What happens in AF #106?"
"Northstar comes out of the closet."
You could see the blood drain from her face.

All hell broke loose. The corporate overlords needed to see 7 photocopies of the issue immediately, then another 7 were required mere minutes later.... They even tried to pull the issue from the printer, but thank the gods it was too late. In the end, Marvel imposed an official gag policy on us regarding the issue, which was monumentally idiotic, because the overlords passed up the chance to shape the publicity bonanza; it had everybody talking anyway.

In the aftermath, we were told a Catholic organization--if I recall correctly it was the church itself, probably the Archdiocese of NY, but I can't swear to that--was going to publically chastise Marvel, but they let it slide because we'd published a Pope John Paul II comic book only a few years before. Go figure. Also in the aftermath, there was a complaint from at least one major comic book store chain (in Texas, of course) that now they'd have to rack ALPHA FLIGHT in the segregated, restricted section for adult comics only.

All because a superhero said "I am gay" (that's it--no suggestions or depictions of anything, besides the usual superhero slugfest) in a medium consided "just for kids."



« Last Edit: April 05, 2011, 04:16:25 pm by Altair, Reason: fixed a misspelling » Logged

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« Reply #7: April 05, 2011, 04:32:24 pm »

I ran into this like a buzz saw back in my days at Marvel Comics. Because in this country, comic books are considered a juvenile medium (not so much in Europe, and not at all in Japan). So even the mention of "gay" was problematic.

Comic book editors have a fair degree of autonomy, and my boss was a progressive woman--I was her assistant editor at the time--so when the new writer she hired for ALPHA FLIGHT (Sunflower, take note: a comic book about Canadian superheroes!) proposed bringing superhero Northstar out of the closet, we were all cool with it. The character had been suggested as gay with winks and nudges ever since famed comics creator John Byrne invented him, so we all figured it was time to dispense with the dumbness. No big deal.

I already knew you mentioned working for Marvel before, but I had know idea you were involved in this tiny bit of comic book history Shocked

Quote
All hell broke loose. The corporate overlords needed to see 7 photocopies of the issue immediately, then another 7 were required mere minutes later.... They even tried to pull the issue from the printer, but thank the gods it was too late. In the end, Marvel imposed an official gag policy on us regarding the issue, which was monumentally idiotic, because the overlords passed up the chance to shape the publicity bonanza; it had everybody talking anyway.

In the aftermath, we were told a Catholic organization--if I recall correctly it was the church itself, probably the Archdiocese of NY, but I can't swear to that--was going to publically chastise Marvel, but they let it slide because we'd published a Pope John Paul II comic book only a few years before. Go figure. Also in the aftermath, there was a complaint from at least one major comic book store chain (in Texas, of course) that now they'd have to rack ALPHA FLIGHT in the segregated, restricted section for adult comics only.

All because a superhero said "I am gay" (that's it--no suggestions or depictions of anything, besides the usual superhero slugfest) in a medium consided "just for kids."

Can't say I'm surprised.  Given that GLBT superheros are a dime a dozen these days, do you know if this policy still in place?
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« Reply #8: April 05, 2011, 04:37:02 pm »

Can't say I'm surprised.  Given that GLBT superheros are a dime a dozen these days, do you know if this policy still in place?

Sorry, in that long-winded recitation I failed to give a time frame: the early/mid '90s.

And I'm sure that policy *isn't* in place anymore. Heck, I heard they even started using bona fide curse words in Marvel's comics (though I kinda hope not. I haven't kept up, so I don't really know)...so making the word "gay" verboten in that context would be beyond dumb.
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« Reply #9: April 05, 2011, 04:58:19 pm »

Sorry, in that long-winded recitation I failed to give a time frame: the early/mid '90s.

Ahhhh

Quote
And I'm sure that policy *isn't* in place anymore. Heck, I heard they even started using bona fide curse words in Marvel's comics (though I kinda hope not. I haven't kept up, so I don't really know)...so making the word "gay" verboten in that context would be beyond dumb.

Well it wouldn't be the worse decision Marvel made.

*cough*One More Day*cough*Civil War*cough*
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« Reply #10: April 05, 2011, 05:49:40 pm »

IMO, what's really being "protected" here is adults' perception of non-adults as "innocent beings" (I blame the Victorians Cheesy).  And in the name of preserving adult illusions, the many, many young people whose sexuality/sexual identity/gender identity is in some or another way non-normative are ill-served.

Yup.  It's a truism of kid lit criticism that texts for young people are ALWAYS primarily for adults:  adults write, edit, publish, distribute, and buy the books, and young people only get hold of them at the tail end of the process.  It's the one genre of lit that's produced pretty much exclusively by people outside the ostensible target audience.

And "children=DARLING INNOCENTS WHO MUST BE PROTECTED" actually goes back a bit further, to the Romantic period.  Romantics were all about Origins and Wildness and Nature, and children were seen as emblematic of all three.  (Prior to this period, children had been mainly seens as short, ignorant adults, and childhood wasn't, like a Special Sacred Category.)  It's no coincidence that folklore studies, AND the revival of non-classical paganisms, also happens here -- it's an obsession with stripping away the stultifying effects of High Culture to get at something Original and Pure.  So it's all of a piece.  Cheesy

The Victorians, of course, took these ideas about childhood and ran with them, making them especially sticky and creepy, and it's that legacy that we're dealing with today. 
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« Reply #11: April 07, 2011, 05:19:28 am »

Yup.  It's a truism of kid lit criticism that texts for young people are ALWAYS primarily for adults:  adults write, edit, publish, distribute, and buy the books, and young people only get hold of them at the tail end of the process.  It's the one genre of lit that's produced pretty much exclusively by people outside the ostensible target audience.
Difficult to resolve; much of that is stuff that young people - small children in particular; the older they are, the more equipped they are to actively participate - don't have the skills and life experience to handle themselves.  Some degree of adult involvement is inevitable - but a great deal of the existing involvement is unnecessary, or necessary only in context of inherently adultist structures, and self-serving.

That's a key issue in tackling adultism/ephebiphobia in general:  it's neither just nor viable to withdraw adult involvement altogether, so it's necessary to figure out how to apply that involvement in ways that fully respects young people's personhood - and then to convince adults that applying it in those ways won't have horrific results.

Quote
And "children=DARLING INNOCENTS WHO MUST BE PROTECTED" actually goes back a bit further, to the Romantic period.  Romantics were all about Origins and Wildness and Nature, and children were seen as emblematic of all three.  (Prior to this period, children had been mainly seens as short, ignorant adults, and childhood wasn't, like a Special Sacred Category.)  It's no coincidence that folklore studies, AND the revival of non-classical paganisms, also happens here -- it's an obsession with stripping away the stultifying effects of High Culture to get at something Original and Pure.  So it's all of a piece.  Cheesy

The Victorians, of course, took these ideas about childhood and ran with them, making them especially sticky and creepy, and it's that legacy that we're dealing with today. 
<nodnod> It was the sticky-creepy, and the extent to which the ideas are incorporated in the basic unquestioned assumptions of Anglo-Western culture, that I was mainly thinking of - the Victorians didn't invent them, but they pulled them into a cohesive system (or anyway further developed the cohesiveness) and normalized them.  And there are so many other things that underwent this process, as well, in connected ways (see also: Savages Noble and Otherwise; Angel in the House... and probably a metric fuckton of things I've forgotten, or haven't yet noticed; does a fish notice water?) - if the Romantics were the inventors, the Victorians were the industrialists who put the inventions into mass production.

Sunflower
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« Reply #12: April 11, 2011, 05:17:31 pm »

Does anyone have anything they'd like to add?

http://www.jimchines.com/2011/04/wicked-pretty-things/
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« Reply #13: April 11, 2011, 07:48:45 pm »

I'd never even heard of him before I ran across him Getting It on some other topic (rape, IIRC) some months back; that put him on my Authors To Look For When I'm Bookshopping list.  Here he is Getting It again; I think I may just go add everything of his that Amazon.ca has to my wishlist.

Sunflower
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« Reply #14: April 11, 2011, 10:14:43 pm »

I ran into this like a buzz saw back in my days at Marvel Comics. Because in this country, comic books are considered a juvenile medium (not so much in Europe, and not at all in Japan). So even the mention of "gay" was problematic.
<snippage>





That was during my time with TSR as the creative director for the Marvel Super Heroes RPG. I remember the hubbub in OUR offices all too well; at "ground zero" I can only imagine how much louder the noise had to be.

Wow. Just--wow.
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