Weird Tales Goes Back in Time

This editorial by Weird Tales editor Marvin Kaye, defending Victoria Foyt’s widely criticized novel Saving the Pearls: Revealing Eden and promising to print the first chapter of it in the magazine, has a lot of people up in arms. It’s a tragic turn for a magazine that’s up for a Hugo this year thanks in great part to the leadership of Ann VanderMeer, who was ousted by Kaye & co. when they purchased WT almost exactly a year ago. (VanderMeer remained on board as a contributing senior editor; she announced her resignation today following the publication of Kaye’s editorial and the subsequent outcry.)

Foyt’s “discrimiflip” novel, in which dark-skinned Coals oppress light-skinned Pearls and a white woman who wears blackface falls in love with a black man who is literally described as bestial, has been widely criticized for both its extensive use of racist stereotypes and the poor quality of the writing. Foyt’s response to the criticism has been defensive and often contradictory. And as Kaye notes, it’s SF–not fantasy, not horror, not New Weird or slipstream, not the sort of work that has always given Weird Tales its name. Given that Revealing Eden would not generally fall under WT‘s genre purview and that the prose and story are hardly so transcendant as to justify making an exception, it’s impossible to read Kaye’s decision to reprint the first chapter as anything other than a defense of racist writing. It is just barely possible that Foyt may have had the best of intentions and been genuinely taken aback when her book was called out for displaying her unconscious racism. Kaye, however, has no such excuse. This is a calculated statement of scorn for non-white authors and readers and their allies, and it stinks.

WT turns 90 next year. As Andrew Ti of “Yo, Is This Racist?” is so fond of pointing out, 90-year-olds shouldn’t get a pass on espousing racist nonsense just because they grew up thinking it was perfectly fine. VanderMeer did a wonderful job of bringing WT into the 21st century; it’s tragic to see Kaye (who already had a dubious reputation for publishing bigoted trash) dragging it back down.

 

EDIT: Welp, that was quick. In a new editorial, WT publisher John Harlacher says that the book excerpt will not be published in WT and that he personally found several elements of the book (which he has not read) “goddamned ridiculous and offensive”. He adds:

Marvin [Kaye] says if you read the whole book, she explains her use of this imagery, and it ends up as a plea for tolerance. I say, so what. And that is the position of Weird Tales — and upon reviewing the video and other materials, Marvin is in full agreement.

I deeply apologize to all who were offended by our association with this book. I am offended by it. I fully respect those who have been writing negative things about us today. You are correct.

Harlacher has taken down Kaye’s statement, which is unfortunate; I firmly believe that such things should be allowed to stand, with appropriate addenda, especially since taking down the statement also takes down all the comments that were left on the page. Fortunately Google cached it (thanks to Aishwarya Subramanian for that link) and Nick Tramdack has screencaps.

In a comment, Harlacher adds, “Marvin changed his mind after I showed him the video and other marketing materials. He only read the novel, and did not see how it was presented. I will let him respond further in his own statement.” So apparently Kaye is still willing to support an offensive novel but not offensive marketing materials. Glad to know that’s cleared up.

In response to the original WT announcement, Shimmer has announced that it is now paying pro rates (underwritten by Mary Robinette Kowal, a former staffer for both Shimmer and WT), specifically so that authors who are no longer willing to submit to WT will have another pro-rate magazine to send stories to.

 

EDIT 2: Jeff VanderMeer reports on a conversation he and Ann had with Kaye and Harlacher back in June, wherein the book was described and Ann said unequivocally that it sounded terrible and shouldn’t be published in WT. That makes Harlacher’s “it didn’t occur to me to read it” defense look even weaker than it already did.

Anyone who subscribes to WT through Weightless Books and wants to cancel their subscription can transfer the value of their remaining issues to any other magazine subscription that Weightless carries.

10 thoughts on “Weird Tales Goes Back in Time

  1. Jeff VanderMeer

    Just to clarify Ann’s position (since she’s not on the internet for several hours): she had agreed to stay on a for a bit as a contributing senior editor, which allowed her to pick one story for the mag by a new writer for every issue. This she thought was a useful purpose, but ever since May she’d decided to leave entirely and this latest action just made that decision more abrupt. There had been no announcement about her position because WT has just in general been in disarray and not been doing a good job of announcing anything.

      1. James Davis Nicoll

        I think the problem here is that despite some fairly well documented problematic aspects of Leni Riefenstahl’s career decisions, people agree she had talent. I have not seen that hypothesis submitted regarding Foyt.

  2. Jeff VanderMeer

    “And as Kaye notes, it’s SF–not fantasy, not horror, not New Weird or slipstream, not the sort of work that has always given Weird Tales its name. Given that Revealing Eden would not generally fall under WT‘s genre purview and that the prose and story are hardly so transcendant as to justify making an exception, it’s impossible to read Kaye’s decision to reprint the first chapter as anything other than a defense of racist writing.”–Yes, *this*.

  3. Kevin A. Lewis

    Wow, Weird Tales is still around?! (Pardon me for being tuned out, but since Borders closed it’s 40 miles to the nearest decent bookstore) Seriously, though, this book sounds like the worst YA dystopian novel ever written, and makes old-school stuff like H.P. Lovecraft and Gone With The Wind sound downright sensitive.. From the discriptions, it sounds like the main gripe is that it’s just a piece of crap from any angle and one of the acquisition editors was seriously drunk on duty………

  4. Andrew Porter

    Ah, the wonder and the immediacy of the Internet! Just like the Krell, we can now project Cheez-Wiz to any point on the planet, for any purpose!

  5. Pingback: How To Lose An Audience | Caught In The Dreaming

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