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Wicked Pretty Update #6: The Canceling
galadriel
cleolinda
@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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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...

YES.

Calmly waiting now for
Big Mammoth Book of Slash.

I'm not even that invested in fandom in general, but I must say that even I would but the Big Mammoth Book of Slash.

There actually *are* books/publishers that seem to be playing to that audience I've seen. (Like, I remember seeing something about gay men but clearly aimed at women.) Apparently, it's not everyone.

I think it's a question of just being out of date more than anything. I doubt there are many senior editors deeply familiar with the world of fanfiction. IMO we're already starting to see a change, with the success of The Demon's Lexicon and City of Bones series.

My potentially-unhelpful two cents: I do think there is a vocal minority online asking for more LGBT YA (and bless them) but in the vast majority of cases, it is true that writing a more inclusive world will hurt your sales.

Demon's Lexicon, er, isn't successful (who can say why, and without meaning to complain!). City of Bones is an awesome exception, floating in a sea of heteronormative romance. So I do hope things are changing, but I also see why they're changing slowly: because a potential audience isn't evident to publishers.

Currently working on a post about how writing inclusively does hurt your sales, and will incur the wrath of publishers and readers alike, and yet is still very much worth doing...

Really?? I guess I live in a bubble or something, I know loads of people who like it! Heck, I bought it, and I hardly ever buy books!

In my rush to post (oh me), what I should've said is that I think we're seeing a slow change in publishing. I think it is only really due to the fact that the internet is slowly but surely becoming mainstream, though; a bit like walking past XYZ building for 20 years without realizing there's actually a store in it, and then hearing someone talk about this cool store in XYZ building. I think now that's starting to happen, in maybe 5-10 years-- when people who grew up with the internet as a "legitimate" media outlet akin to print and television are becoming assistant editors and heads of publishing houses and starting their own houses-- we'll see more fiction out there. Will there be an LGBT series that reaches Twilight/Hunger Games/etc. levels of success? That I don't know. I mean, I don't think anybody predicted Glee would be nearly as successful as it's turned out to be, and I know there were question marks over Cam and Mitchell's "mainstream appeal" before Modern Family started. But at the same time, it's not like I'm seeing gay leads on every new show on TV because of it, you know?

Really. But hey, very glad to hear it. ;)

I hope you are right about the slow change in publishing: I already know loads of publishers and agents and writers who are internet-savvy and active, and progressive too! But it does depend hugely on the audience response, since basically what a business needs is a product that will sell, and that's the hard thing to predict. The success of Glee and City of Bones both make me happy, and one can only hope.

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