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Wicked Pretty Update #6: The Canceling
@lisamantchev: Just got an email from Constable & Robinson... official word that WICKED PRETTY THINGS has been canceled.

(Recap: the absolute nutshell version.)

Earlier this morning, prior to that announcement, Jim C. Hines also made an offer to pay $100 for any of the WPT authors' anthology stories and post them on his blog, with donations/proceeds going to charity. He does raise the question, "Why did [editor Trisha] Telep immediately assume that a story in which two male characters were in love would be unacceptable?"

Enough people were accusing Telep of being a bigot that I figured people were already asking themselves that question. But actually... I may have gotten an answer to that earlier last week. I was holding this for a more substantial entry which... well, a cancellation announcement pretty much demands that. So: I got an email from a second writer who wants to remain anonymous. (After Christopher Navratil's Publisher's Weekly piece, you can perhaps see why she didn't want to give her name, either.) I'm snipping a bit (at her request) to remove identifying details, but:

I don't know if this is the first time a writer has been asked to de-gay a story, but I do know for a fact that it's not the first time we've been asked to remove "alternative' sexuality." [...] BUT. I don't believe this is entirely on Trisha's shoulders.

This writer says that Telep told her that she got into trouble with Running Press and was afraid of being fired over previous stories with "extreme content," and has told more than one person this. (Side note from me: the problem here is not that [A] content is inappropriate for [B] genre of anthology; it's what they consider to be "extreme." Such as the mere existence of gay characters, judging by Jessica Verday's experience, which was not "light" enough for a YA book.) She says an author she's friends with was also asked to tone down elements of her story ideas, since Telep had already gotten in trouble on other occasions. Even if they did not issue specific content guidelines (as you will remember, there are no content specifications in the contract that these authors signed) to Telep, this author says that it's possible Running Press "gave [Telep] reason to think that they would not be happy with a gay story in one of their 'mainstream' or YA anthos."

The thing is, we know that Telep herself said at the beginning of this that asking Verday to change the character's gender was her own call and not Running Press's request. And she said it so blithely that it was hard not to take it at face value. My question at this point is whether Telep made that call and took that blame because Running Press had previously, if vaguely, led to her think her job would be at risk if she brought "extreme" content to them.  

That's why I was reluctant to throw Trisha completely under the bus. What she did was wrong, absolutely. I don't condone it for a second and I don't make excuses. But I also think she honestly believed there would be an issue, based on their previous reactions to stories with "different" elements, and that's why she didn't check with them before her reply to Verday.

So this is a publisher for whom Trisha Telep has already edited 21 anthologies and is doing five more--a publisher who reacted badly to "extreme content" and "alternative sexuality" in the past.

It's not like their behavior--that wankathon PW story, their self-serving emails--has shown them to be just so so much more open-minded. Hell, if they really cared they would have announced they were donating all WPT profits to the It Gets Better Project or something, and I think most of us would have strongly considered keeping our stories in the various anthos had they done so because that would have meant they actually cared and wanted to make a change/statement/whatever. But writing a couple of simpering emails (in which they stole words from Saundra [i.e., falsely implied that Saundra Mitchell wanted to come back to the anthology] and publicly accusing Jessica Verday of being a vengeful internet shit-stirrer for telling the truth doesn't exactly give me a lot of confidence in their statements of regret, you know?

Please note that, in the interest of being fair, this is obviously hearsay. Although I believe this writer, I also can't confirm this with public citations. But it's a possible answer to Jim C. Hines' question. I think there really was some personal bias involved (Telep did make a statement on her Twitter to the effect of having a very old-fashioned view of romance). Back in the beginning, I was trying to focus on Telep's involvement based on her own statements seemingly absolving the two publishers; as other authors noted, to blame Running Press and/or boycott their books would hurt uninvolved writers and editors, some of whom were very supportive and inclusive. At this point, I think it's important to note this new information, not to "get back" at Running Press, but to be fair to her. Obviously, this whole situation looks very bad for her, and if there really was pressure on her, I think that should be noted.

There may be no way to untangle what actually happened. All I know is, I'm telling you everything I've been told, and you can judge for yourself what you think of it. And, as always, I would be happy to post any information to either support or contradict any of this. I'm waiting on some sort of official announcement from the publishers, and will post that once I have it.

@moirarogersbree: Thank you, #wickedprettythings authors, for making it a little less okay to blame bigotry on the bottom line.

ETA 4/16: I'm now hearing that all comments have been removed from the Publisher's Weekly piece. Since no additional reporting was done by PW itself, they were the only challenge to the assertions made in that post. Too bad, then, that I screencapped the comments on April 5th.

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The cancellation was inevitable but I'm glad it happened. There was no way it could have continued on, not after everything that happened.

As I've said a zillion times before, I don't think we'll ever get all the details on this case. I do think Telep had some level of involvement independent of the publisher in her decision, partly because of her twitter message about this 'old fashioned idea' of romance, but it has to have gone deeper than that, especially since she's worked with the publishers so many times and they've clearly established a very profitable business together in the field of anthologies (still reeling over the $250 a story thing.) Whatever the case is, both Telep and the publishers came out of this looking bad and it really shone a light on how casual it is to set things to the default mode for fear that something 'alternative' is so new and scary that we must avoid it at all times. The long-term effects this may have will be interesting to watch. I don't think Telep's career is over, nor should it be. She apologised and people will forgive, but the taint that this has left on the publishers, especially after that BS Publisher's Weekly statement, will be hard to miss for quite some time. If nothing else good came out of this mess, I have a whole lot more authors to add to my TBR list!

Okay, if this is true, now I feel bad for Ms. Telep.

On one hand, if she made that call, to take all the blame (and she did it in such a carefree manner that I'm not sure she knew how much she was really taking on, and what the consequences would be), that's what she said, and we're really second-guessing at this point. I mean, I want to make that clear up front. But the email I got is also nearing whistle-blower territory, and you start to understand why she might have consciously taken the blame for it, and that maybe this possibility needs to be considered.

I don't know. I think I'm kind of uncomfortable no matter which option I choose, posting it or not posting it.

I was worried that something like this was the cause. Just based on the ambiguous language in the contract it doesn't surprise me that Trish might have been operating under just enough information to make these assumptions, and I think that might have been the point. If nothing happens then everyone's happy, but if an editor steps over an author's line and goes public the publishers have the might shield of Plausible Deniablity. "We didn't say that! She made that decision on her own!"

Hmm. Sounds a lot like my last job.

I'm very glad this hot mess is being cancelled.

I'm also very glad that more context is coming out about Telep and the publisher. It seemed too simple to put all the blame on her.

Thanks so much, Cleo, for keeping us informed and updated. You, as always, are awesome. :)

Just as a note, I've gone back and switched from first names to surnames (or full names) in the interest of clarity.

So how long until RP solicits stories for a brand new anthology on the exact same theme?

*checks watch*

This afternoon?

Well, that sounds about right.

This shit is bananas.

I suspect Telep's full of it. Running publishes a number of erotica books in its Mammoth series—not YA, of course, but they'd hardly be shocked by alternative sexuality or waggle a finger at Telep for including sex and whatnot in her romance titles. (Full disclosure, I wrote a story about a ten-person-orgy-cum-broadway musical for The Mammoth Book of Threesomes and Moresomes.) Telep's Mammoth backlist doesn't include any sort of work for children where the "extreme" might be a problem.

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Thank you for the updated information. I don't know that there's going to be a simple or easy answer, but I appreciate the context and background!

Thanks. I definitely want to keep up with news on any future anthology projects as well.

Wow... um... and... weren't people pulling out the "But the main editor/owner/whatever of the publisher is gay so obviously that means he's okay!" card to explain how obviously this must be completely Telep's fault? Not that I now suddenly want to absolve her completely of all responsibility, because no, she definitely still carries a lot of it.

But if she really did make the call based on prior experience... hmm. Yeah. That causes some second thoughts, and none of them good.

I'm still boggled that publishers are so allergic to the tiniest whiff of same-gender romantic content, even something that would have to be 100x racier to rise to the PG-rated level. There is a lot of very explicit slash online, but there's a lot of very non-explicit slash as well, with a ton of readers. I'm just surprised that publishers don't want to cash in on that, if they're really all about the bottom line. There's a market, especially amongst teens, and they're missing the boat. Perhaps their focus-group data is decades out of date? I have no idea...


Calmly waiting now for
Big Mammoth Book of Slash.

First rule of the game: Never Assume. Do I have to say why?

Second rule of the game: CYA. Translation, Cover Your Ass.

From my very limited Monday morning armchair point of view, Telep needs to work on her CYA skills. I really hope she can mend the bridges with the authors.

And I hope everyone involved is the wiser.

It looks like Telep wanted to keep this quiet and take some of the bullet for RP...but it blew up magnificantly in her face to be honest... Allot of this could have been avoided with a few things.

- Like ACTUALLY running the story past RP before publication "Hey one of my authors for Wicked Pretty Things gave me a story I'm not sure about, wanna eyeball it now while we have time to re-write or get a new submission?" I fail to see how this would 'get her in trouble' she's just CYA before it hits the streets

- being Honest/More Communicative with Verday "Hey I LOVE your story I really do but the publishers...they nixed it, yeah I know...I'm sorry can you do a rewrite? No? Okay...can I keep this on file for a future project if one comes up? Are you willing/have the time to submit a new story?" Sounds a bit better than "degay or else"

- Being honest/better spoken when this thing hit the net "Yes I did ask her to do that with her story, I'm sorry we tried to reach an agreement and it just didn't work out this time." Instead of the flippant twitter mess

Whatta Mess

Again, I say;
If RP would have just said "There was a mis-communication. We are sorry this happened. We are postponing this anthology until everyone involved is clear and on the same page regarding our content policies. We are sorry for any pain this may have caused. Thank you for your understanding."
Not "Well, standing up for same sex relationships in relation to your work is akin to bullying same sex teens/young adults to suicide. This author is a shit stirrer and a liar and all of you other authors are stupid to buy into her bs. Etc." (in my mind, saying someone is saying things that are "Untrue" is saying they are lying.)

The PW articles, and ensuing emails, reactions from PR is where it really blew up and became nearly unsalvagable, in my opinion.

I totally agree. At first I was just angry with Telep for doing that, but then when Running Press tried to pin the blame on /Verday/, of all people, that just pissed me the f*** off.

If it's true Telep was taking the blame because RP complained, then I feel slightly less like she deserved it.

However, the WAY she presented it was so very infuriating that on the other hand, I really, really do not care.

Running Press, based on that shitty PW article alone, deserved to have the anthology canceled and the authors pull out.

Telep deserved to be removed as editor (which never happened, annoyingly enough) the minute she opened her mouth and came out with that half-ass bullshit non-apology.

Thank you for keeping us all updated about this.

RP - the new Twilight/crzy

I think we can now say that, along with Twilight, Running Press means never having to say you made it up....

Which is not to say there won't be fuckery of a similar nature in the future from any of these parties, but it's good to know things worked out this way now.

My question: Do anthologies with same sex pairs do the same sales-wise as those with strictly het? Is it a matter of 'everyone wants vampires right now, not space dramas' and not 'make the gays ashamed'? If so, they might have really awkwardly handled a touchy/hard situation. If not, so awful I can't express.

Given that the target demographic for YA romances (i.e. young female readers) is also the main demographic that is widely and devotedly and enthusiastically into gay slash fic (writing it, reading it, demanding it) right now... I cannot imagine that same sex romance would have driven down sales. Now, not saying that RP might not have thought that male same sex romance wouldn't sell as well, but if so, I suspect they'd have been profoundly misinformed about what "everyone wants right now".

Of course, there are considerations such as "will we be blacklisted from libraries in certain parts of the country". Even if the intended readership in some of the redder states would still gobble it up, their parents may raise a stink they found out about such content. Still, I suspect that the demand and often preference for gay male romance among many young female readers these days is such that it may even counterbalance the losses from such considerations.

I'm still waiting for the press release in which they issue a full apology to Jessica Verday. I could analyze and ponder about everything else and try to find my own solid opinion, but that press release is the one thing that still has me certain that at least on that count Running Press is full of it.

Ironically, I think that press release is what turned a lot of people against Running Press.

that wankathon PW story
What was this?

I think she's referring to the Publisher's Weekly editorial.

I've followed this entire saga with great interest, not just for the obvious reasons like what a hot mess it was, but for personal reasons - I write lesbian urban fantasy and Telep was my literary agent for a while. She took me on for a book involving heavy drug use, domestic violence, and a whole ton of foul language and was very enthusiastic about it. So I do find it credible that she may have got her hands slapped in the past over "extreme content."

I've never believed the situation is as simple as "Telep's a homophobe," although she really didn't help herself with her initial response. I doubt we'll ever really know, but it's fascinating to see more details being revealed as this rolls on.

Yeah, I'd heard that she'd done some agenting (in the past? not currently? Not sure). And I'm hearing some skepticism about whether what she said in private (outside pressure from the publisher) or what she said in public (all her own decision) is more true, but I felt like it needed to be noted either way. The thing is, it kind of seems to be a little bit of both. It's hard to figure out what's going on.

I love that very last tweet.

The fault, in this /particular/ instance, lies with Telep. What she /should/ have done was contact the Running Press and say "Hey, I have a story with [this], [that], and [that other thing]. I think it should pass, but it also a gay romance at the forefront instead of a straight romance. It is not explicit. Should I keep the story in, or ask it to be edited?"

That being said, if it is true that Running Press has denied due simply to gay characters before (though I recall someone stating that they've asked for LGBT characters before), then they must be held accountable. I don't know how to reconcile this with the authors/editors that aren't involved in this, though. :(

I hope Verday continues her career successfully, and I hope that everyone realizes that Running Press is trying to bully her.

I say this not as a gay guy, but as a human in general: it is sad when someone considers a chaste kiss (or the like) between two people of the same sex (particularly men, it seems) to be "sexually explicit". It's a dumb double-standard that's downright offensive.

If Telep actually said "extreme content" and "alternative sexuality" (which in many people's minds encompasses much more than homosexuality) and not specifically that she'd been called out for including a gay romance where a straight one was accepted, I already call it a fishy story, and a little too late to believe. I remember Verday saying something about being asked by Telep three times to change it, too.

Three is kind of a magic number, you know? Once, okay, it could've been just a mistake or an error in judgement. Two, if she was really worried about what RP thought she should have asked them before getting back to Verday. Three means she was either in editor-from-hell mode (not taking any guff from those writers, how dare they challenge her!) or was probably stuck on the idea of "gay romance =/= YA appropriate" from the get-go, regardless of who she was working for.

Or it seems that way to me. I mean, I haven't seen these correspondence myself, but I'd think if anyone who wasn't firm in her notion already that gay romance was automatically "not tame" they'd at least be willing to check. And anything else it might have been, even if it was just something like being too lazy to check back with RP, that falls on her shoulders anyway, if for no other reason than because she was presenting herself as a representative of Running Press.

...not that they're not guilty as well. They certainly are, because mentioning a suicide in conjunction with this mess would never, ever have been okay unless it was coming from a "we realize we need to be more receptive to gay authors and authors who write gay characters, for the sake of the readers and the youth that could gain confidence from it." Or, you know, something to that extent.

Sorry if I've failed to make sense somewhere. I am exhausted, but couldn't help but comment, as this whole thing makes me despair for my future as a writer (who would very much like to be able to write gay characters into her stories without having them shoved into a "not appropriate for straight eyes" type category). Not that I have much of a future anyway...

I still prefer "The Wicked Son/Bride / Meets the Wolf Man" style over "The -ning / In Space" but I guess that just goes with being a fan of the classics.


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