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Wicked Pretty Update
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Quick recap: Jessica Verday dropped out of the "Melissa Marr-ish" Wicked Pretty Things YA anthology after being asked to change a "G-rated" male/male romance to male/female. The editor, Trisha Telep, made a bizarrely cheerful non-apology; Running Press claimed to both support LGBTQ writing and stand behind the editor 100%. Out of thirteen stories in the anthology, five other writers (Lesley Livingston, Karen Mahoney, Lisa Mantchev, Brenna Yovanoff, and Seanan McGuire) have pulled out as well. This still being the weekend and a situation in progress, no responses from the other seven have appeared yet. However, Ann Aguirre has dropped out of a different Telep anthology and Melissa Marr has asked them to take her name off the cover copy because seriously what the hell was that about anyway.

I'm sure that further developments will roll in tomorrow, but Caitlin Kittredge stopped by to say,

I had a story in Telep's anthology "Kiss Me Deadly" and a forthcoming one in "Corsets & Clockwork". Unfortunately, C&C had already gone to press (like, physical final copies) when all this bullshit blew open, or I would've yanked it so fast the earth would've reversed rotation.

I contacted Running Press/Constable & Robinson and told them I wouldn't be submitting/selling them any more of my short fiction while they continue to employ Telep in any capacity, and I urge other former/current antho. contributors to do the same. The quickest way to effect a positive change is to hit them in their profit margin.

Last night, I also got a pingback from Dina James' journal, where she points out the downside of a scorched-earth boycott: she had no idea what Trisha Telep's views were (and supports the Wicked Pretty Things protests), but when people talk about never buying any Running Press books again, they're talking about her books, including the ones Telep didn't edit. (She also states that she will not work with Telep again.)

On that note, Saundra Mitchell has dropped out of yet a different Telep-edited anthology, but still supports Running Press--and, to their credit, you need to know why: "I’ve withdrawn my short story “Tromsø by Polar Night” from Trisha Telep’s THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST STORIES- but I’m very proud to say that my story for C&R/RPK’s TRUTH & DARE is still on. That editor, Liz Miles, not only encouraged me to write in an experimental form, her call of entry specifically asked for stories with LGBT content."

So, despite Running Press's contradictory, have-the-cake-and-eat-it response about supporting LGBTQ writing but standing behind Telep, it sounds like the best course of action for readers at this point is to specifically boycott anthologies Telep edits. The best course of action for writers seems to be the one they're already taking: pulling stories that haven't made it to press yet and refusing to work with editors who want to make gay characters disappear.

Running count: six writers out of Wicked Pretty Things, two authors who are dropping out of different anthologies, two authors who have nothing currently to pull but won't work with Telep again, and one writer who doesn't even want her name anywhere near it.  

ETA April 2nd: There was, in fact, a formal apology from Trisha Telep that no one saw until about 3/29-3/30.

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The plot thickens and I think it's only going to continue tomorrow.

I think the right path is to definitely hold Telep responsible for her actions, which completely bypassed actually consulting the publishers on the situation. Why do that? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The publishers are being rather coy over it all which is to be expected, but it wouldn't make sense on a business level to keep Telep employed on some level of the public and writer's community want nothing to do with her.

I feel like there's something else going on here that hasn't quite come to light yet. It's just really telling to me, though, that Telep assumed so blithely that a gay relationship/romance wasn't "light" enough content for the anthology, but the F word was totes okay. Like, three G-rated kisses (as Jessica termed them) were "dirtier" or more explicit than horror and cursing, to the point where she didn't even think to check, because it was such an obvious conclusion. Those are the views the writers are dealing with here, is what I'm saying.

Edited at 2011-03-28 12:17 am (UTC)

"Unfortunately, C&C had already gone to press (like, physical final copies) when all this bullshit blew open, or I would've yanked it so fast the earth would've reversed rotation."

Ditto, this. I've deleted all reference to C&C from my website, and I won't be promoting it. If I could've pulled my story from that one too, I would have.

I hate that this is happening to y'all. And really sorry that that this one editor seems to be involved with 63% of all the anthologies published on earth. This is going to affect so many people. Thank you for standing up.

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The one with Trisha Telep as editor is this one.

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This whole thing is a Hallmark movie waiting to happen...

Definitely go them. :) (The people who dropped out of this nonsense, that is, not the...perpetrators of the nonsense)

I can certainly think of various reasons why they can't let her go, but their use of the word support kind of boggles me.

Yeahhhh... she's done so many books with them that I suspect there's some personal attachment there. I mean, if a good friend of mine had gotten caught up in this, I would have to sit down and think very carefully about how to say what needed to be said next.

I'm not sure "We stand behind her 100%" would have been it, though.

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I am put in mind of a West Wing episode, the one where the Surgeon General claims pot isn't all the harmful. CJ is told to show support for her to the press and asks Josh, "while I'm showing her support, what will you be showing her?" He replies: "The door."

This is just to say, it is the weekend, and the publisher may very well be waiting until they can get all information from all sources during working hours (I'd guess lawyers cost more if you need them on a weekend) before making any public decisions.

Yeah, ITA with your second paragraph. Lawyers do not move on Internet Time. The lawyers I've known who've worked weekends are either fairly new associates desperately trying to make more billable hours to please the partners, or ones who have a really huge, urgent case (I don't this would qualify, upsetting as it may be).

I'm really anxious to see what the final outcome is. Will they get stories from a bunch of writers who don't know/care about the issue and put out the book, do you think? Or maybe just can the whole thing? I dunno, I don't think I've ever seen something like this happen in terms of literature, at least in my recent memory.

Considering the book's cover touts "13 Dark Faerie Romances" (and how many ways are there to spell 'fairy,' seriously? But I digress) they're already basically down to half. They might have to scrap it. And it might be for the best, since it's pretty much cursed at this point.

Any word on Francesca Lia Block? I kind of expect her too, she wrote Weetzie Bat, for chrissakes.

People have pointed out that she hasn't been on Twitter or her blog for a few days, so she may be out of the office entirely, as it were. I'll be interested to hear what she says.

I find it odd that all this comes right on the heels of the YA mafia's non-existence posts. Or is that just me?

Heh, I was laughing about that with someone. This is why I kept saying on the Made of Fail podcast, "I don't think it's a mafia, I don't think it has any power, but yes, there is a closely-knit community." When that can be used for good, it's great.

Thanks for the running updates on this sitch. I've been keeping track of it all week, but your summaries are the best (like usual). :)

Heh, thanks. I'm not sure how I always end up doing this kind of thing, but I seem to be useful at it.

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I looked around but can't find out - why was Melissa Marr's name on the front in the first place??

It was a marketing gimmick--"dark faerie stories with a Melissa Marr-ish slant," because ripping off the cover and title of Wicked Lovely just wasn't obvious enough, I guess.

Thank you for all the linkage. This whole thing is so baffling to me. Full disclosure, I've had two stories in anthologies edited by Trisha Telep: one had an intersex character and the other had a threesome proposed by a girl and a guy to another guy, though it didn't come to pass. So I wasn't censored by her at any point.

But what happened to Jessica Verday is awful and she has to be defended, and though I'm sorry and unhappy it happened, I'm really glad that she talked about it openly, because so, so often these things happen behind closed doors and this content is excluded in a million different ways, and it is completely infuriating. Every time I read a book with that false default world (and there are maaaaany, and I always notice) I'm disappointed.

It is a fact that writers who aren't writing exclusively about the white straight able-bodied false idea of The Default Characters are often going to find it harder to get published, always going to face pushback at some point, and are sacrificing some sales.

But it is also a fact that that can't be allowed to matter.

I don't know what happened with the anthology, not really: some members of either of the publishing houses could well have intimated 'oh hey no not really on a certain kind of stuff' while other members would be horrified at the very thought. Or it could be just the editor feeling 'this is the way things are, what a terrible shame' - which, yes - 'nothing I can do' - which, no.

I don't have any conclusions to reach other than the obvious a) Jessica Verday has my full support and admiration and b) YA writers especially, because they're writing for the age at which the discovery of sexuality often happens and often in fraught distressing ways, have a responsibility never to say to a kid 'You're not okay.' Not to a kid of any race, of any sexuality. That has to trump everything.

This is, I know, preaching to the choir. ;)

Edited at 2011-03-28 01:37 am (UTC)

Full disclosure, I've had two stories in anthologies edited by Trisha Telep

I think I may be the only person here who has not been in an anthology edited by Trisha Telep. How many ARE THERE?

one had an intersex character and the other had a threesome proposed by a girl and a guy to another guy, though it didn't come to pass.

What was the general content/maturity level of that anthology? Because I'm wondering if what happened here was a subgenre of discrimination, the Gay Romance Is Automatically More Explicit Than Het (And We Must Protect the Children From It) kind.

It also sounds like Running Press genuinely is LGBTQ-supportive, between your experience and Saundra Mitchell's, plus the fact that RP said they did want Jessica's story. I am painfully logical at times, so--logically, this "light on alternate sexuality" business didn't come down from Running Press, and they're telling the truth when they say it didn't. But Trisha Telep didn't try to censor your two stories in the context of those anthologies. I just... I'm so baffled. The vibe I'm getting off her is that she's kind of daffy and well-meaning, and made a really bad (yes, prejudiced) call, but the kind of subtle, insidious prejudice that she wouldn't think of as prejudice. The kind that doesn't realize that saying "can you make these characters straight?" is kind of up there with "can you make them white?"

I almost (almost!) feel bad for Trisha Telep at this point, because wow, did she open up a can of worms, but on the other hand, wow, should she ever not have opened that can of worms.

I feel worse for Running Press, and especially for all the authors who have to deal with this. For some of these authors, getting a story published in an anthology with successful writers like Francesca Lia Block and Seanan McGuire may have been a big deal and a big step forward in their career, and now, boom. Anthology's cursed, writers are dropping out left and right, and you have to figure out what to do with your story now.

I know sometimes contracts stipulate that if you write a story for one anthology you can't do anything else with it for X amount of time, and that would suck. I'm hoping it's not the case here since Jessica Verday said she was working on an alternate distribution for her story, which I really would like to read.

I feel really really bad for Trisha Telep, in the sense that I don't think she has any idea what she's done, how seriously the YA community takes this kind of thing, or how screwed she is. Or at least, that she did not yet know when she replied on Jessica's blog. And I get this feeling from both her reply and some "oh, dear me!"-type comments she also made on her Twitter, which someone showed me. The two key posts were something like, "I just thought [Running Press] was too conservative" (okay, we're getting somewhere! it was a really unfortunate misunderstanding/assumption!) and "I just have an old blinkered view of romance" (oh nooooooooooo).

And you know, one of the other commenters here was talking about how much it hurts to hear phrases like "alternate sexuality," like s/he'll never fit in or be considered normal. So this kind of bullshit really actually hurts people, in addition to "just" offending them. And I just feel really bad--it's like I want someone to save her from herself at this point.

Edited at 2011-03-28 02:05 am (UTC)

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jumping into the fray.....

I am COMPLETELY in support of these writers - both the stance they are taking the actions they are taking.

I am also utterly outside any publishing circles - mafia or otherwise (which always bring that silly cashmere mafia TV series into my mind - why?).

I wonder: Was she speaking for the publishing house or herself on this? As in a publisher saying "we want this 'more marketable'" or "Can the writer make it more 'family friendly'"? Or "Will this be banned by Walmart?"

And just setting aside the principle of the whole situation - WHICH IS HUGE IN MY OPINION - Even if she was told anything like this - even if she herself felt this way - her inability to frame her request in a more.....I don't want to say palatable (because there is no such animal).....just a better way - this alone is flabbergasting. (I've had to hear local politicians try to frame politically incorrect responses to things, and not even their stumbling around has come close to her....emotional deafness on this matter. It's like hearing someone try to hum who is tone deaf.....And coming from someone who is in a communication industry.....

Lastly, being **ahem** a little older than our fabulous Miss Cleo and perhaps some of her audience, having grown up in a small town in the south in the '60's and '70's - I know people who would have - hell, I'm straight and even I would have given my right arm to be able to read about people who were not ..... white, straight, able-bodied, middle class.....

We live in the 21st Century! It's time the businesses of our time caught up!

The relative openess and freedom one of the things I LOVE about this day and age, and all you young whipper snappers (leans tired from vented rage onto my walker, admiring my bright pink tennis balls). Yet we still have so much work left to go (alas).

Okay, ending rant...