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What's going on with #yesGayYA
I have been writing (good) and having health issues (bad), so I've been quieter than I would have liked. However, before I can get to a number of other things, we have a publishing kerfuffle to discuss. Yes, another one. It's gotten pretty bad.

The short overview from the Guardian: YA authors asked to 'straighten' gay characters: Authors say agent offered them book deal conditional on making a character heterosexual.

The long version: Pack a lunch, you'll need itCollapse )

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Thanks for the extensive summary! Wow, I had no idea it would just explode like this. I really hope something good comes out of it and Rachel and Sherwood aren't given the publishing stink-eye instead.

I have noticed a ton of authors defending them or taking their side, although a lot of people are also standing by the agency, which seems to have a good reputation of long standing. It's a tough situation. Obviously there are various sets of people who would never want to work together after this, but I'm hoping neither side is blacklisted over this.

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Yeah, I have a hard time demanding that companies publish things they might lose money on Just Because. It's their right to refuse. That's why I think the original post was more on point, because it was about changing the atmosphere in which publishers would be wary of LGBTQ content--getting readers to show that they want to buy it, and so on.

What I would really like to see (poor Malinda Lo, like she needs more work to do) is what percentage of YA bestsellers have LGBTQ content. If bestsellers have a significantly higher percentage than books that just didn't sell for whatever reason, that suggests that the market could support more LGBTQ content, and the overall low percentage is due to not much being published in the first place.

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At first I thought that this was, in fact, a continuation of the Wicked Pretty Things mess. Which, in a sense, it is... but not like I thought.

Yeah, when I first RTed something about it, people were like, "Didn't we already go through this?" Yeah... we did.

This is an important issue! So many LGBT youths feel so isolated because there's no proof out there that anybody else exists that's going through what they're going through. Just as important a message as "It gets better" is, "You're not alone."

Yeah... I'm just so amazed that this happened on the heels of #YAsaves. I thought we went over this already!

nicely done.

Hopefully this gets some traction and progess gets made.


I am so glad you've put that last link in there, because I plan on buying a bunch of those.

My favourite author, Tamora Pierce, has written a book where one of the main characters is gay - but this was about 20-25 books into her publishing career. I do wonder what it would be like if this was the first book she'd published.

IIRC, Thom and Roger from the Alanna books were explicitly in a relationship in the earlier drafts, but it got taken out. I have no idea whether or not it was an editorial decision, though.

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would love to vote with my wallet and buy more books with LGBTQ characters. Anyone have recommendations of books with a female, latina, bisexual character?

Mayra Lazara Dole's Down to the Bone has a Latina teen questioning her sexuality (I think she decides she is lesbian in the end, although IIRC there are bi and genderqueer characters too)! I have a few issues with the book but also really liked how there was a spectrum of Latin@ teens and sexualities.

Thank you so much! I've always been a bit suspicious about it so it's nice to see everyone's version of events.

Now about those best-selling YA books...

Lord of the Rings...depends on your point of view...Gimli and Legolas were totally Romeo and Juliet with a better ending...

Twilight...nada, zilch, zip...gay werewolves are apparently impossible?

Harry Potter...now I thought it certainly seemed like she was describing Albus and Gellert in a torrid romance but it was nice to have that confirmed. However, in the movies?

nada, zilch, zip

Someday, I would love for a movie about Albus' early years, like X-Men: First Class but with actual kissing...

The statement in question could possibly mean that the characters could remain, but their POV scenes should be rewritten from the perspective of the (now) "main" characters; the differing accounts of the conversation leave this unclear.

I can explain that part. We were given several alternatives for dealing with the character, Yuki.

1. Cut his POV and remove all references to his sexuality. He'd still be in the book, but be seen through the eyes of other characters. And he wouldn't be gay. He'd be a straight-seeming non-POV character.

That was the point in which the agent in question suggested that if we just never mentioned his orientation, maybe he could be revealed to be gay in hypothetical later books.

This was the change which got discussed the most. Alternatives 2 and 3 were mentioned briefly and in passing, when Sherwood and I argued vehemently against # 1. They were:

2. Cut him from the story entirely.

3. Make him straight.

It was not explicitly said that if we made him straight, we could keep his POV. We never asked about that. So I'm not sure if that was ever on the table or not.

But it was very, very explicitly stated that we could not have an out gay character in the book.

I will also note that while his main storyline isn't about being gay per se - the book is set in a non-homophobic society - he has a romance with another boy which is a major part of his storyline, and also plays into larger plot issues which affect other characters. Cramming him into the closet would entail significant rewrites to the entire book, and would destroy his own story.

Cut his POV and remove all references to his sexuality. He'd still be in the book, but be seen through the eyes of other characters.

Yeah, that was my best guess from the wording of the statement. I'll add that in.

I went to a publishing event last night and was chatting with an agent, telling her about a YA I'm trying to sell and she perks up an asks if it's a GBLT YA. So, from my experience with this agent, there's interest in GBLT YA.

As for this whole out of control situations, I honestly don't know what to believe. What would these 2 authors and even the agent get out of lying or flubbing the facts of what was said?

And if an agent did ask to make a character straight instead of gay, doesn't that necessarily make them a bigot?

There seems to be more here than meets the eye.

"And if an agent did ask to make a character straight instead of gay, doesn't that necessarily make them a bigot?"

I apologize, I meant to say it doesn't necessarily make them bigot.

That's what all of those complaints up there have in common, whether the issue was cultural, racial or sexual: it was something that the agent or editor might not personally have a problem with, but something that they were afraid would turn prejudiced readers away.

I think this is what pisses me off more than anything. It's basically saying "yes, I may take the same actions as a bigot, but don't worry I'm not ACTUALLY a bigot! I don't ACTUALLY agree with them! I just want their money more than yours!" As if that's supposed to make me feel better or something.

It's why I think the idea of saying BUY THE BOOKS YOU WANT TO READ is so important-- money is the only thing that matters in publishing (or film, or TV). Blogging, tweeting, buzz, controversy, it's all ultimately pointless if it doesn't shift books.

oh also, forgot to say-- thank you for this post! I've been busy the past week so I only heard the first bit of controversy and none of the rest.

In comments at The Swivet

Another author says, anonymously, that s/he was explicitly asked to de-gay his book and prints the letter. Highlight:
As much as I hate to admit it, young men just don't read as much as young women. In addition to this, your protagonist is not only male, but he's gay as well. Even if ****** could command a significant male audience, the element of a homosexual protagonist would reduce this demographic to a mere trickle of readers.

Colleen confirms that Joanna Stampfel-Volpe was not part of the original phone call. http://swan-tower.livejournal.com/489896.html?thread=4748200#t4748200

Where's the specific wording on "not part of the phone call"? I've gone headachy and can't locate it.

Thanks for writing this up! Posts like this help to organize and synthesize all the scattered pieces which I read yesterday but had trouble assembling in my head to extract the bigger picture.

Edited at 2011-09-16 05:40 pm (UTC)

Some people have super powers. Apparently I have linkspam.

This is a great summary of all that's happened. Thanks for making this post.